WHILE its external cream and lichen modernist asymmetry may not appeal to all, there is little doubt that every patient undergoing a surgical procedure will come to appreciate what is inside South Gippsland Hospital’s brand-new operating theatre.
Just on 10 months has passed since the first sod was turned on August 23, 2019 at the start of the Foster hospital’s $1.738 million extension project, and the resulting state-of-the-art facility will soon be ready for service.
Warragul-based construction firm Farnham Developments Pty Ltd is expected to officially hand the hospital’s latest addition over to the medical and nursing staff this week when the last of the finishing touches to the building are completed.
The operating theatre’s inaugural surgical session is planned to take place by the end of June 2020, after meticulous cleaning and when all the necessary equipment has been installed and checked.
The building was designed by SLAP Architects of Bairnsdale to meet all current Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services’ health facility guidelines.
The extension project also included refurbishing the hospital’s existing maternity and birthing suite, which has already greeted 20 babies since it was reopened in mid-March.
SGH director of nursing and midwifery Marion Bowron together with perioperative unit manager Gabrielle Buckland said thorough testing and validating the new theatre’s services and equipment would be occurring next.
“We will be examining the function of many systems such as air and water quality and supply to ensure all infection prevention measures comply with current standards,” they said.
“The requirements in regard to the sterility of the theatre itself, including all of the surgical and medical equipment, air-conditioning and air and water filtration are absolutely specific to ensure patient and staff safety at all times.”
Ms Bowron and Ms Buckland reiterated the importance of being positive that no unwanted microorganisms are present anywhere within the operating theatre environment.
The entrance to the new operating theatre and its associated pre- and post-operative areas is located at the north-western end of the hospital’s central corridor, adjacent to the present patients’ lounge and close to the updated birthing suite.
The ramp leading to a doorway that may be seen on the south-western outside wall of the theatre across from the hospital’s main entrance is an emergency exit and delivery and collection access, and certainly not for patients heading into surgery.
SGH interim chief executive officer Paul Greenhalgh said Ms Buckland and the hospital’s facilities manager Martin Schack had “contributed a great deal to the extension and had worked closely with the architects and builders throughout the project.
“The new building’s design and structure and all of its engineering, services and internal fit-out and finishes had to meet strict medical as well as occupational health and safety specifications,” he said.
“The logical design and flow of the new operating theatre, the perioperative recovery area and its private consulting room enables a safe and efficient journey through the facility for our patients.”
The new operating theatre is larger than the original theatre and has been designed to easily accommodate operations such as Caesarean sections as is required to maintain SGH’s Level Three Maternity Service status.
The surgical procedures already offered by SGH and its team of local general practitioners and visiting specialists will continue as before, and Mr Greenhalgh is keen to see what other opportunities now exist.
Mr Greenhalgh said the standard of the theatre and the quality of its new contemporary equipment means that now SGH has the potential to expand its range of surgical services in the future.
Funds raised through the efforts of the SGH Auxiliary, along with bequests and donations from organisations such as the Bendigo Bank, and from community groups and individuals have been spent on items such as the best available pendant surgical and lighting systems.
The extension’s new sterilising department is totally compliant with current infection prevention standards.
There are automatic doors, taps, window blinds and lights, patient and staff changing rooms and toilet facilities, a staff bathroom, a bathroom suitable for people with a disability, and a pre-operative waiting room furnished with comfortable lounge chairs.
Ms Bowron and Ms Buckland said the members of the SGH perioperative team, which includes the local GP surgeons, obstetricians and anaesthetists, associate surgeons, and the nurses and midwives were all keen to begin working in the new operating theatre.
“Once the new theatre is in service the hospital’s old theatre will be decommissioned,” they said.
“A working group will be formed to determine what the former theatre space will be used for down the track.”
Mr Greenhalgh said that when the new theatre’s fixtures, equipment and fittings were finally in place the hospital’s staff would take part in an induction process and the members of the SGH team would be taken on a tour of inspection.
“We’re right on the edge of a significant moment in SGH’s history of care and service to the Corner Inlet community,” he said.
“Thank you to the Victorian Government for the funding, and to the people of the local community for their ongoing interest in, support for and contributions to our hospital.”