AFTER 500,000 working hours, the project director at Gold Coast University Hospital (GCUH) is confident the $1.76 billion project is on schedule and budget.

Don Glynn delivered an update to the Southport Chamber of Commerce, assuring more than 100 members that the project is on track for completion in 2012.

By the end of 2010, $2 million will be spent each day until it opens.

Touted as one of the largest single development projects ever undertaken in Australia, Glynn says 70 per cent of the hospital’s 750 rooms will be single-bed, highlighting the focus on a ‘better health system’ over cost-saving.

With the ground floor measuring 1.7 hectares alone (17,000sqmtrs), the size of the hospital is among one of its complexities.

“The fact that the average patient is getting older, sicker and heavier and acknowledging the fact that this is a very large facility, the typical model where trying to get the apartments adjacent to another on one floor was causing problems,” says Glynn.

“What we’ve worked towards was once we got to a nominal distance of about 60 metres, we determined that was too far so the apartments actual stack vertically rather than horizontally so it’s got more to do with the lift system that walking great distances.

“We’ve actually completed most of the basic level of the main building and moving on to the first suspended floor we’ve completed three or four sections of that floor.

“We’re happy with the way it’s going in fact it’s on time and on budget basically. We’re getting a lot of interest from subcontractors and trades and are currently running to program.”

When concerns were raised over the usage of the existing hospital building by chamber members, Glynn says no decision had been made. It is likely to be utilised by the new hospital. A small parcel of land has also been sold to Energex to subsidise power to the entire precinct.

Negotiations are currently in place with private enterprise to run the hospitals 2200 initial paid parking lots, and further private investment will only be injected into some commercial aspects of the institution.

“We have a retail zone and currently we are working with the government’s hospital foundation and have nailed in the areas for newsagents, a florist, the ATM’s and that sort of thing – but that’s the only private investment,” says Glynn.

“We will also look at the opportunities for naming rights, philanthropy - we’ll investigate all those commercial opportunities as a way to bring some additional funding into the project.”

Federal Member for Moncrieff Steven Ciobo, says a city the size of the Gold Coast needs an investment of this scale but raised questions on the current government’s ability to manage the asset.

“Fundamentally a brand spanking new hospital is great but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the management of that hospital will be fantastic,” says Ciobo.

“There is no clarity about how this is going to interact in terms of the private component of the hospital and the public component of the hospital. There is no clarity on the actual funding of this hospital in the future under the Rudd Governments plans.”

With 4500 additional jobs to be created in hospital employment alone, Southport Chamber president Laird Marshall says the expected influx of medical professionals will help shift the capital cities’ ‘unfortunate’ perceptions of the region as ‘hick town’ or ‘a place to go holiday and not much else’.

“Southport just by the nature of where it is will be become a lot more of a serious commercial area – the main commercial area on the coast,” says Marshall.

“That will draw in other business and other benefits for the entire Gold Coast, so you have to look at it all as a positive step.

“We’ve got people moving here and it’s no good just having a hospital for them we want to have jobs, and real jobs - not just relying on tourism. It will provide proper employment for people.”

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