New location for Women and Babies Hospital

In a move that blindsided doctors, nurses, obstetricians, and midwives, the McGowan Government announced on 11 April 2023 that the new Women and Babies hospital will no longer be built at QEII.

The $1.8 billion hospital will now be built within the Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) precinct, where additional space will allow expanded services at the new state-of-the-art hospital to include more obstetrics beds, gynaecology beds and neonatal cots.  

The Government said the new site will also improve parking and transport connectivity, as well as enabling the hospital to be built without disruption to patients and staff at Sir Charles Gardener Hospital (SCG), with work forecast to commence in 2024. 

“The new Women and Babies Hospital will service our community from right across WA, which is why we allocated $1.8 billion from the budget surplus to this important project – that funding is locked in, meaning the new state-of-the-art hospital will be built, debt free,” Premier McGowan said. 

“However, it would have been irresponsible to proceed with a new hospital at QEII given the unacceptable disruption to patients and staff that has been identified through the planning process. 

“FSH currently delivers more than 3,000 babies a year and this new location allows the Government to provide a modern, leading edge maternity hospital next door to the State’s largest tertiary hospital, without compromising on patient care throughout construction.” 

He went on to explain that following the completion of the Business Case and Project Definition Plan for the proposed QEII site, which found construction posed too many risks and would cause unacceptable levels of patient disruption, the new site at FSH was identified as the most suitable alternative. 

Building the hospital at the QEII site was also predicted to lead to higher build costs and a longer schedule than planned, due to the complexity of the project. 

Since 2021, $10.4 million has already been invested in the development of the project and in addition to informing the need for an alternative site, this body of work will also be used at the new FSH precinct option, which also has the benefit of being adjacent to the new MediHotel and within walking distance of Murdoch Station – providing quality public transport options for staff and visitors. 

The nearby Jandakot Airport will also ensure easier emergency access for regional patients. 

Multistorey parking will be constructed in the precinct to offset the loss of the existing car bays where the new hospital will be built, but unlike parking at QEII, which was privatised by the previous Liberal National Government, parking at FSH is under the control of the State Government – meaning increasing car bays can be achieved without the need to deal with a third-party contract. 

In an extra boost for State-wide maternity services, the Osborne Park Hospital (OPH) will also undergo further expansion of its obstetrics, gynaecology and neonatal services, birthing suites and theatres, and the neonatal services at Perth Children’s Hospital will also be expanded. 

A new Family Birthing Centre will be built alongside the redeveloped OPH, complementing the Family Birthing Centre that is already in place at FSH, with final details of the expansions to be confirmed once planning is finalised. 

“The redevelopment of OPH to include the establishment of a new Family Birth Centre and expanded maternity and neonatal services provides women in the Northern Suburbs with greater birthing choices – closer to home,” WA Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said. 

“I am committed to getting this project right for women in WA and we will continue to consult with women to make sure we have the very best women centred health care and facilities.” 

ABC Breakfast’s Nadia Mitsopoulos caught up with Dr Michael Gannon, the former state and national president of the AMA and an obstetrician with 20 years’ experience working at King Edward’s Memorial Hospital, on Wednesday 12 March, to discuss the impact of the decision. 

“First of all, I was quite shocked and blindsided… But what is so important this this absolutely blindsided every obstetrician, gynaecologist, paediatrician, neonatologist, midwife, nurse, etcetera doing the work as they have been doing on the commuter move for the past three years,” Dr Gannon said. 

“So, although I understand the thinking, and although the problems on the QEII site were self-evident – there are plenty of elements to the decision that seem to make a lot of sense – it is so important that the government engages, consults, and listens to doctors, nurses, and patients in making decisions like this. 

“The McGowan Government does not have a strong record when it comes to engaging with doctors and nurses. They seem to want to be at war with the RACGP and the AMA and that is not healthy. There is a chance to make this work, but that is going to involve consulting and it is going to involve listening.” 

Dr Gannon noted that even though this decision meant that the new facility would be approximately 20kms away from PCH, maintaining the plan to collocate the tertiary women’s hospital on a site with a general hospital was more important. 

“That key message, which we’ve heard again from the minister, is that it’s so important that the highest risk pregnant women are closer to an intensive care unit, something which doesn’t happen at the moment on the King Edward’s site,” he said. 

“The fact that they are collocated with other essential medical services, whether that be surgeons, physicians, or psychiatrists, is preserved in the move. 

“Let us make this the hospital that serves this City, which serves this State for the next 50 years. And that is just going to involve occasionally listening to the experts in the medical profession – the expert nurses and midwives who might help us get it right.”