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COVID-19 treatment facility completed inside 12 weeks

A Melbourne building that formerly served as part of the Peter MacCallum Hospital has been converted into a specialist 84-bed COVID-19 treatment facility inside three months.

Completed as part of the Victorian government’s $1.9 billion health funding boost, St Vincent’s on the Park has substantially increased Victoria’s ability to deal with pandemic patients.

Head contractor Kane Constructions engaged AECOM and A.G. Coombs to design and install the mechanical and HVAC works. With A.G. Coombs and AECOM collaborating, a cost-effective and operationally effective solution was designed, and teams worked in 24/7 shifts over the 12-week period to finish the project.

“The project started with an incredibly tight timeframe, as Victoria was in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic,” recalls AECOM’s Asia-Pacific Healthcare Director Jack Kerlin.

“We didn’t know if we were successfully going to be able to flatten the curve to buy the health system more time to prepare for the expected influx of very ill patients. The biggest challenge was transforming a hospital built and designed more than 40 years ago into a modern clinical environment, with hardly any original (correct) information.”

A.G. Coombs Project Manager Dale Cadee concurs that working in an old existing facility was hugely challenging, as was the ongoing scope and change management while under extraordinary time constraints.

“The consultants were designing in parallel with our surveys and site installation,” Cadee explains. “As our pre-commissioning results emerged the scope was refined. At one stage this resulted in six significant specification revisions in three days. Communication had to be effective, and our processes needed to be agile and responsive.”

The project involved substantial upgrades to central plant systems, including the heating hot water system, air-handling plant and also replacement of a wide range of equipment that had reached end-of-life. Works were also carried out to support safe access for patients, staff and visitors, and to ensure the building is compliant with current safety standards.

“In such a dynamic design and delivery environment, quality management was very important to ensure correct and accurate documentation management, and that the works and completed installations were reflective of the final design,” Cadee says. “This was a very demanding project that drew in resources from across the A.G. Coombs Group; it was great to be reminded of just how much horsepower we can deliver.”

Kerlin says there were many opinions on the best approach to manage the coronavirus environment and the services required to do this, and these all had to be tested.

“We had to make decisions based on clinical data,” he says. “And we were able to lean on our global team to get some insight into issues and approaches being taken in Europe, who were much further along the curve of infections than we were.

“This helped to inform and refine our approach, and ensured that we were able to deliver a facility suitable to treat the patient cohort as well as supporting the needs of the clinicians who would be working in St Vincent’s on the Park. It was a once-in-a-lifetime project.”

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