Juggling construction without disruption at Royal North Shore

by FM Media
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How the Royal North Shore Hospital and Community Health Services Redevelopment Project is being completed without disrupting hospital operations is shared by Thiess’ JIM TRAGOTSALOS. In the high-tech world of healthcare in the 21st century, the complexity of building a state-of-the-art, level-six tertiary referral and teaching hospital is in itself an extraordinary challenge. Combine with it the potential nightmare of serious clinical disruption in an existing hospital that shares the same campus and you have one of the greatest organisational challenges of any construction project. The $1 billion Royal North Shore Hospital and Community Health Services Redevelopment Project in Sydney has a lot of interface with existing facilities that support the hospital and this means a lot of areas every day where we could potentially stop that hospital operating clinically. So, we have to be very careful. Such care doesn’t come without meticulous planning. It’s been due to the efforts of every stakeholder that the project is interruption free after four years of construction.


The secret to the success at Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH) has been communication. Thiess has adopted a system of method of works plans for every interface where there is a risk of disruption to a clinical service. Each method of works plan is submitted to all stakeholders, who double check and triple check the plan before inserting their own comments. It’s a process that has been repeated more than 180 times since the project began. The system ensures nothing is left to chance. All parties are always aware of what we’re doing and what the risks are at any point of time. Their combined input ensures the risk is minimised and managed, and enables everyone to have clear insight. Some of the more delicate interfaces include the relocation of the patient transfer lounge, a vital hub of activity in any hospital and one where disruption could potentially cause significant disquiet and anxiety. This complex move has been required twice. Equally delicate has been the need to change the route by which ambulances approach emergency, a change required not once, but three times. A change of this magnitude required the usual planning within the project, but the ambulance service itself and other interfaces, including the council and public transport, had to be managed as well. We had to ensure no one could be accused of stopping ambulances from getting patients to the emergency room. We simply could not leave anything to chance.


We are nearing the end of the hospital decant, project managing the complex move from the old RNSH to the new. For two months, the hospital has been running in two locations while equipment, belongings and patients have been transferred to a precise schedule. Radiology was the first department scheduled to move, followed by emergency, theatres and finally, and most delicately, the intensive care unit. They all carry inherent risks, but once again, cooperative and meticulous planning will make the move as seamless as possible. As a provider of integrated health solutions, Thiess is in the unique position of effectively handing the hospital over to itself. New South Wales Health looks after the patients, but Thiess holds the contract for facilities management and maintenance. This is where Thiess has a real coordination advantage. From the client’s perspective, they only have to worry about the provision of the services, but when it comes to the building, no matter what happens, Thiess is fixing it. Royal North Shore is one of a long line of health projects for Thiess, but the process is one of continual improvement. The project has another 18 months to run, during which the old RNSH will be demolished and replaced with a multi-level car park. The risk of disruption won’t be as great, but the methodical planned approach will continue to ensure the absolute minimisation of risk. Jim Tragotsalos is the project director for Thiess on the Royal North Shore Hospital and Community Health Services Redevelopment Project in Sydney.

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