Work on the $250 million expansion of Mackay Base Hospital to deliver an additional 128 beds will start next month.
Managing contractors BESIXWatpac will take control of the hospital expansion site on 1 February and begin site establishment works.
The hospital expansion will also deliver additional paediatric beds in a new ward with a co-located Ronald McDonald Family Room as well as expanded maternity services.
To safely deliver these works in line with aviation requirements, the current helipad at Mackay Base Hospital will be temporarily relocated to Mackay Airport.
This decision follows an intensive exploration into potential locations for the temporary helicopter landing site by aviation and critical care consultants.
Mackay Hospital and Health Board Chair Helen Darch said the Department of Health and Mackay HHS engaged independent experts and undertook extensive stakeholder engagement to ensure the temporary relocation best serves the needs of the health service and its patients.
“There are many factors at play in determining the safest location for an interim helicopter landing site, and the decision to use the Mackay Airport during our construction phase is the best overall solution based on the independent advice of experts in this field, both in aviation and in critical care,” Ms Darch said.
Ms Darch said the safety of patients and helicopter crews was the overriding consideration for the health service when selecting an interim landing location.
“The decision-making process has been underpinned by our unwavering commitment to transparent consultation and patient safety and comfort,” Ms Darch said.
“Following independent expert advice and consultation with local community groups, the decision for the temporary location considered clinical, environmental, aviation, and technical considerations.
“The temporary relocation will enable the delivery of our vital expansion works, which will include a permanent helipad on campus.”
Ms Darch said the assessment report included consideration of 21 locations at 19 potential landing sites, and considered relevant legislation and safety standards, the landing requirements for the different-sized helicopters and assessed the conditions at each site.
The distance to the Mackay Base Hospital from each potential landing site was measured, and other factors impacting a helicopter landing site such as lighting, security and patient privacy, were also assessed.
“With the report findings carefully considered, the decision to relocate the helicopter landing site to Mackay Airport was bolstered by the location’s existing safety procedures and the number of patient movements that already occur via the airport.
“We are talking with the ambulance service, Mackay Airport and CQ Rescue about procedures and resources that may be needed to support this arrangement.”
In supporting the decision of the Board, Mackay HHS Chief Executive Susan Gannon said the health service had sought the opinion of medical experts based in Mackay, Queensland and externally from interstate. The decision was also supported by Queensland Health.
“It’s important to remember that critical care starts when a highly skilled doctor first meets the patient, not when they get to the Base Hospital. They will continue to receive this one-to-one support while being transferred from the helicopter in the ambulance,” Ms Gannon said.
“If a patient is critical, it is better to provide care to the patient in an ambulance and not on a trolley,” she said.
The Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) has reviewed the findings of the various reports and recommendations into the relocation of the Mackay Base Hospital helipad in relation to patient transport arrangements.
There will be a dedicated ambulance vehicle at the helicopter base to allow the immediate transfer of incoming patients to Mackay Base Hospital. QAS acknowledged the need for a guaranteed timely transfer of patients between the proposed landing zone at Mackay Airport and the Mackay Base Hospital, and remains committed to the safe and timely care of patients in all circumstances.
The independent aviation report is available here.