Remaining agile to deliver health projects in Victoria during COVID
COVID-19 has presented a myriad of challenges for construction projects, which has perhaps been most apparent on Built’s health projects in Victoria, where teams have needed to be especially resilient and agile.
Two different Built health projects in Victoria have faced a wide range of obstacles over the past three years but have recently reached practical completion ahead of schedule.
In 2020, Built was engaged as construction partner by Peninsula Health and Monash University for the Frankston Hospital research and education facility; the Ngarnga Centre for Ideas, Innovation and Learning, following a successful Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) phase. During the initial three-month ECI, Built worked closely with the client and Lyons architects to re-design the plans significantly to fit within the specified budget. This was achieved through close client engagement, open discussion and leveraging the team’s expertise.
Following the initial challenge of finding a suitable design that also came within budget, the construction phase also came with its own unique set of challenges.
“A key challenge of the project was the location of the site, as it’s built on a very small parcel of land in the middle of the loading dock receiving all the hospital deliveries. This meant that we had to manage all the works without disrupting access to the loading dock which required a lot of planning,” said Monica Fontaine, Built Construction Manager and Health Sector Lead.
“The second wave of COVID cases in Victoria also brought about challenges. Our team quickly pivoted to set up testing clinics on site so they could be ready as soon as possible, we helped turn tennis courts into a testing clinic within 48 hours,” said Monica.
The ongoing threat of COVID has also resulted in changes to the design of the project, to accommodate longer-term impacts of the virus. This has included needing to transform an emergency resus bay and existing ICU rooms into isolation areas to ensure the hospital is well prepared for future outbreaks.
Despite the challenges, Built is pleased to deliver the project ahead of programme.
Further north in Shepparton, Built has also recently completed the first phase of works at Goulburn Valley Hospital as part of a major redevelopment. This included the installation of a dedicated Special Care Nursery, CSSD, DOSA, Imaging Department, Fast Track, Theatre Amenities as well as refurbishment of the existing Birthing and Maternity wings.
Monica said that the team’s experience was instrumental to the success of the project.
“Our strong experience and capability definitely helped us win the competitive tender,” said Monica.
“It’s been a very complex job, especially to minimise disruptions to the live hospital environment. The installation of the special care nursery and link to paediatrics was built directly over the emergency department, which was in operation the entire time. This meant that extra planning and care was needed to install all the services required for the nursery.”
COVID again presented additional challenges, especially as lockdown restrictions prevented travel between regional and metropolitan Victoria. This resulted in the Built team and subcontractors working on the job needing to relocate to stay on site, and in many cases spent an extended period of time away from family. The team took this in their stride and were more than happy to accommodate the arrangements to keep the project on track.
The schedule of works was also re-programmed to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID and ensure the emergency department could continually operate at full capacity. This required the team to be flexible and find new ways to work around changes to schedules and access, particularly as temporary COVID spaces were installed.
By responding swiftly to changing requirements and proactively finding ways to work around access issues, the team delivered the first Separable Portion early and is on track for upgrades to the remainder of emergency department, due to be completed later this year.
Throughout the project the team also found ways to support the local community by partnering with The Greater Shepparton Lighthouse Project, an organisation focused on supporting at-risk young people. This has included hosting events to educate high school students about career opportunities in the construction industry and providing work experience to interested students. Built is also sponsoring a music event, All Ages Tour, in March held by the Lighthouse Project and The Push, which is a drug and alcohol-free event for local young people to promote connection and positive mental health in the pandemic. To date, Built has also sponsored white cards for 60 local Shepparton students through partnership with the Greater Shepparton Secondary College.
The pandemic has served as a reminder of the vital importance of well-functioning hospitals. By engaging healthcare workers in the planning of upgrades to hospitals, efficiencies can be added to the design that can result in an improved experience for patients and healthcare workers alike. Built is pleased to work collaboratively with our healthcare clients on a wide range of construction and refurbishment projects that enable the best care possible.