IT’S a couple of days before the Easter break and the building site at the $70 million Albury Woonga Regional Cancer Centre on Borella Road in Albury is buzzing with dozens of tradesmen engaged in a steady stream of activity.
Hansen Yuncken health and safety representative Casey Vlaming is taking The Border Mail, Albury Wodonga Health project manager Greg Pearl and Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre Trust Fund’s fundraising, marketing and events manager Jane Evans on a brief tour of the site to see the building’s progress.
Mr Vlaming said six months ago, the site was only a large hole in the ground.
But that has changed with the completion of the bunkers that will house the centre’s radiotherapy infrastructure, including three linear accelerators.
The early wet weather and delays in finalising the design and some technical aspects of the project mean the centre is now due for completion in early next year, with Mr Pearl expecting it to be operational in July 2016.
The structure of the centre has taken shape in line with plans designed by architects Billard Leece Partnership.
The striking three-storey building incorporates two courtyards with a 30-bed inpatient ward on the second floor featuring rooms built around two v-shaped spaces, and a day-oncology unit with 30 chemotherapy chairs giving patients an outside view on the first floor.
Mr Vlaming said there were now up to 100 tradesmen on site daily as work has begun to accelerate.
Most are from the region with others from Melbourne and outside areas brought in to address specialist needs for the centre’s medical, gas and data installations.
The project is incorporating building techniques that are new to the region; Mr Vlaming points to the “bubble-deck” slabs, which are on the first and second floors.
The pre-cast concrete slabs are lifted into place by crane onto the steel framework and concrete is then poured on top to complete each level.
“This is a really different building for many of us, it’s a technique new to the area,” Mr Vlaming says.
Mr Pearl says solid progress has been made with the installation of mechanical and electrical components of the project underway, and the steel work, brick work and facade well advanced.
He says emergency generators have been installed and commissioned and preparatory work has begun on creating a link-way between the existing Albury hospital and the new building.
Mr Pearl says one of the major challenges has been finalising the design, particularly the facade that was focused on creating greater amenity by ensuring the inside spaces are light-filled from the north.
“This is a building that will be functional and inviting with plenty of clear and natural light,” he says.
“It is not being built with the traditional aspect of a hospital. There will be individual inpatient rooms and courtyards open to the light.
“It is unique, the purpose of the design is to have a building that will be here for 40 or 50 years and will be one of the first things people see when they arrive in Albury-Wodonga, coming from the airport.
“We hope to have the major structural components of the building completed, the windows installed and weather proofed within the next five to six weeks.”
Mr Pearl says attention would then switch to the inside of the new centre with an extensive fit-out expected to take many months to complete.
Mr Pearl agrees the process of bringing together the project’s private and public sector partners across two states is challenging and unique, not only to Albury-Wodonga but probably within Australia.
While the project involves the Victorian and NSW health departments and Albury Wodonga Health, agreements for the operation and management of the centre have to be negotiated with Ramsay Health, GenesisCare (radiation oncology providers), Border Medical Oncology and individual oncologists and a pharmacy provider.
“It’s unique in the extent of the partners involved but also in the number of different organisations that will be moving into the building,” he says.
“This reflects the complex and unique way the submission was put together; in developing a private-public partnership within a building built with public money to ensure the public get the full benefit of the building.”