Please attribute the following to Central West Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive Mr
Work on the safe removal of the old Alpha and Aramac hospitals will get under way from early August and is expected to be completed by mid-October.
QBuild undertook to manage the safe demolition of the old health facility buildings and removal of hazardous materials at both Alpha and Aramac on behalf of Queensland Health and has been in extended consultations with potential specialised contractors to undertake the work.
As both of the old health facilities contain a significant quantity of asbestos-containing
materials and other hazardous materials, this has required the appointment of a highly specialised and appropriately certified contractor.
In the case of Aramac, this will involve the removal of 4838 cubic metres of mostly hazardous material, with a further 4351 cubic metres of similar material to be removed from Alpha.
Demolition work had been expected to start in June 2022.
However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in late 2021 and early 2022 significantly delayed the finalisation of consultations with potential demolition contractors.
In the interim, the buildings have been managed and maintained in line with Queensland Government safety and security regulations.
The old facilities were replaced by a new $17.5 million Alpha Hospital and Multipurpose Health
Service in June 2016 and a new $4.1 million primary health centre at Aramac in April 2018.
However, as we now prepare to undertake the removal work, we recognise the deep connection the Aramac and Alpha communities have to their old hospitals.
Although most of the old Alpha Hospital buildings were structurally beyond economical
repair, we saved the former doctor’s house, which is now the Director of Nursing accommodation.
We were also able to donate and relocate the original outdoor skillion to the Alpha Community Jockey Club.
At Aramac, and at the request of the community, a memorial pavilion was erected at the new Aramac PHC to commemorate former Matron Winifred Stamp.
Matron Stamp was matron at the hospital from 1949 to 1965 and again from 1968 to 1980 and was highly respected by many generations of Aramac residents.
Central West Health also is developing options to memorialise the old facilities, including a scale model of the old hospital at Aramac.
The original section of Aramac hospital was built in 1879 with the first major addition added in
1954. Several other significant additions followed in 1960, 1965 and the last being in 1998.
The old Alpha hospital dates from 1931 – with subsequent expansions and additions in 1944, 1970, 1973 and 1992.
None of the Aramac or the Alpha old buildings are heritage listed.
Our initial intention was to turn the old facilities over to the Aramac and Alpha communities for
their use once the new facilities were operational.
However, as a public entity, we are legally bound to ensure the facilities are safe and fit for
purpose before any potential transfer of ownership or change of use.
To this end, we commissioned extensive independent survey and engineering reports on the structural integrity and safety of both the old Aramac and the old Alpha health facilities.
The results of the various professional and independent surveys and reports were clear.
Due to age and historic maintenance activities, the old hospitals have multiple and extensive
structural defects and significant levels of asbestos and other hazardous materials.
Examples of these defects include:
* The roof structure is deteriorating at an increasing rate and large sections of the roof
sheeting (containing significant asbestos) have failed and the facility is not weatherproof.
* The facilities contain a significant quantity of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) and other
hazardous materials (including fragile glass, lead flashings, hydraulic systems, etc).
* There are strict requirements for handling/removing hazardous materials such as ACMs under work health and safety and public health legislation prior to occupancy which would significantly increase associated remedial costs.
* Fire systems have failed in multiple areas and cannot be repaired or replaced due to the
outdated fire infrastructure. Fire compartmentation and penetrations are not present, and the infrastructure remains uncertified and would require major works to achieve certification to current standards. No-interlinked fire safety devices are present which is mandatory for occupied
* Main electrical and sub-electrical switchboards are outdated, non-operational and fail current
safety standards due to increased and unknown electrical loads.
* Electrics require complete re-wiring to address aged and non-compliant wiring before any installation of residual current devices (RCDs) or electrical improvements could be undertaken.
* Residual current devices cannot be installed on current switchboards due to their age, with all existing electrical switchboards requiring replacement.
* Stormwater and sewage systems have failed, are structurally unsound and not secured as required by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission.
* Underground clay pipes are cracked and require repair, internal water pipes are galvanised and are required to be replaced with copper or poly prior to use.
* Underground storm water pits have collapsed, with significant incursion of tree roots and damage from reactive soil and other ground instability.
* Air handling and conditioning systems are redundant and non-operational.
These significant defects render the old buildings at both Aramac and Alpha, including any material within, unsuitable and unsafe for repurposing.
The financial costs to the health service and ongoing costs to the local community to retain and preserve the old hospital buildings are just too great and unsustainable.
To attempt to do so would breach our legal obligation to ensure our financial resources are applied effectively, efficiently and in the broad public interest.
The results of the multiple engineering and survey reports were presented to community consultation sessions in 2021 at both Aramac and Alpha, which were attended by numerous stakeholders, including community members, advisory networks, and the Barcaldine Shire Council.
All options, including local government acquisition, repurposing, and moving were analysed and discussed during the community consultation sessions.
In the light of the various submitted independent professional reports, stakeholders attending the consultation sessions at both Aramac and Alpha supported the scheduling of the safe demolition of the old buildings and removal of associated hazardous materials.