Speaking with GC Health Chief Mr Ron Calvert

By ahhb
Thursday, 11 April, 2013




The new billion-dollar Gold Coast University Hospital (GCUH) has led a major expansion of public health services on the Gold Coast. Chief Executive Mr Ron Calvert talks to AHHB about the collapse of Hastie Group in May 2012, the state-of-the-art facilities that will be the envy of others, and the opportunity Australia has given him describing it as “unmatchable”, while Gold Coast Health Executive Director Strategic Development, Mr. Michael Allsopp, reveals the when we can expect patient admissions.


Located on the corner of Parklands Drive and Olsen Avenue in Southport, GCUH will be one of Queensland’s largest clinical teaching and research facilities. It will provide specialised health services that meet the needs of patients as well as state-of- the-art facilities to train our health care workers of the future.
Made up of seven main buildings and a total floor space of around 170,000 square metres, the hospital’s design is extremely efficient and will allow expansion to meet future health service needs of the community.
Finishing touches to GCUH are currently underway: patient wards and public dining areas are being finalised, external areas are being landscaped and signage is being erected that will help to guide patients and their visitors around the 20 hectare site.
Other highly-anticipated features of the hospital include onsite research facilities, a multi-storey public car park on-site with 2,200 car spaces, improved privacy and patient safety with over 70% private rooms, courtyards, deck spaces and landscaped grounds and the Gold Coast Rapid Transit (light rail) station in close proximity.
With a project of this scale it must be hard to balance all of the external factors that come together to make it happen. There was talk last year about delays, what caused these delays and how are you tracking in 2013?
External factors primarily affected the availability of the site to commence construction, causing an initial delay of three months back in 2008.
The chosen Greenfield site for GCUH changed after the Queensland Government’s announcement of the building of the new hospital. This then called for a relocation and rebuild of a Church of Christ church and child minding service as well as a Salvation Army Recovery program venue.
These overall external works, amounting to over $150 million, were included in the $1.76 billion budget, however as a result delayed site access. The project lost three months of its program float contingency with reprogramming picking up the lost time during the planning and construction phases.
The renegotiation and mobilising of subcontractors after the collapse of Hastie Group in May 2012 effectively moved the facility handover from the Managing Contractor to Gold Coast Health from December 2012 to end February 2013; this has been the only delay factor within the project and has not impacted on the opening of the hospital on time in September this year.
Mr Calvert, you’ve been with Queensland Health for over 6 months now, how are you finding the new role? Any highlights you would like to share with our readers?
The role as Gold Coast’s Health Service Chief Executive is both exciting and challenging.
I’ve recently moved to Australia from the United Kingdom with the chance to open and head up a world-class facility. This coupled with the lifestyle and opportunity Australia has to offer my family is an unmatchable proposition.
Gold Coast Health is in a unique position, opening a world-class facility in September that has the potential to become a central component of a worldrenowned health and technology precinct.
What have been the biggest challenges in delivering the GCUH to the point it is right now? Are you on track budget wise?
The biggest challenge in delivering the GCUH was meeting a concurrent program of PDP, schematic design and detailed design that is traditionally a sequential process. This was required to meet the redesigned project program in order to meet building and commissioning timeframes.
The concurrent program included approximately 54 service planning groups involving up to eight clinical staff who contributed to the design and detail of GCUH. Their input was in addition to their normal daily workloads and was also required for a second, concurrent project which saw the existing Robina Hospital expanded and refurbished at a cost of $274 million. Accordingly, meeting program timelines including clinician input imposed very focused and flexible planning approaches.
The project is currently on budget and within time for the contract practical completion date of 16 September 2013.
Managing contractor, Lend Lease, has partnered with Queensland Health to bring this building to life. Tell our readers how they have overcome any construction challenges, and their triumphs in bringing innovation and sustainability to the design and construction.
Gold Coast Health’s partnership with Lend Lease is a major highlight of this project.
The many challenges faced in the project including site access delay, construction worker car parking, the interface with external stakeholders, concurrent planning phase challenges and construction to name just a few, have been dealt with in true partnership and without cost escalation.
Even the minor delay caused by the collapse of Hastie Group did not affect the overall Health Services operational commissioning program as Lend Lease ensured early site access and cooperative dock management to allow the activities including the load in of free standing equipment whilst construction works continued.
As a client, we could not have asked for more from a Managing Contractor. Lend Lease did not just treat this as a project but approached it with the same enthusiasm and motivation the Health Service has in designing a state of the art healthcare facility for the community.
Lend Lease’s overseas experience enabled many evidence based improvements to be incorporated into the facility design that will improve the overall cost efficiency of service delivery.
Guided by ‘environmentally sustainable design’ (EVD) principles, these design features include use of energy efficient lighting, the ability to use recycled water and waste minimisation.
The collaborative approach to the project in conjunction with the Managing Contractor Lend Lease has ensured that issues have been dealt with efficiently and effectively and not impact the result in any way.
» Mr Ron Calvert
Health Service Chief Executive,
Gold Coast Health


Ron Calvert has held a number of senior management and executive posts in hospitals across England.
Prior to his appointment, Ron Calvert was Chief Executive of Doncaster and Bassetlaw National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust, which has 6000 staff (5230 FTE) and a turnover of £330 million, operating from three main locations.
The Trust was rated among the top 20 per cent in England in a recent in-patient survey, with eleven areas evaluated including hospital admission, cleanliness, hand hygiene and fewer delays in leaving hospital.
His previous post was Chief Executive of Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust. Ron was responsible for turning round a financially challenged Trust and developing proposals for a new integrated care organisation. Ron also introduced a quality regime that resulted in a significant reduction in mortality rates, resulting in Trafford being rated in the top 11 hospitals in England; in addition the Trust made significant improvements in Healthcare Acquired Infection rates: no blood borne MRSA bacteraemia infections have taken place in Trafford for the two and a half years preceding his departure, and this track record has continued since he left: the Trust has had zero MRSA blood borne infections for well over three years now.
There is a lot of high tech equipment and sophisticated systems being installed in this state-of-the-art hospital. What can you tell us about them? What is going to set GCUH apart?
GCUH will be equipped with the latest technology to enable our clinicians to provide the highest level of patient care and comfort.
The sheer scale and scope of the GCUH means that the ICT (information and communication technology) required to run the hospital is also greater in scale and complexity compared with most projects.
There are certainly challenges of installing the highest level of ICT infrastructure and connectivity of any hospital under construction or operating in Australia, particularly when planning for the hospital took place well prior to iPad and iPhone technology being introduced to the market as an example.
The GCUH ICT program will add to the existing foundation of telecommunications infrastructure, computer systems and software and ensure connectivity to biomedical equipment and external partners like Universities.
New capabilities will also be provided, including systems to support new services like radiation oncology, expanded medical imaging, food services, neonatal intensive care and others.
We will also improve the way we manage our information and provide efficiencies to access clinical systems.
An example of one new capability is in imaging management. X-rays and CT scans will be amongst many other images that staff will be able to securely share across multiple departments without worrying about file formats via a new system called ‘vendor neutral archive’. This ‘universal viewer’ will significantly reduce the time that staff spend looking for images as these will be searchable from one place, rather than across various databases.
GCUH will have a strong ICT foundation that will be the envy of older health facilities around Australia.
What were the problems arising from the current ageing health infrastructure and its refurbishment?
Refurbishment of the existing Gold Coast Hospital was not an option.
The current Gold Coast Hospital is problematic in terms of its age, access, infrastructure condition, technology inclusion and size of floor plates to convert to a single bed configuration similar to GCUH.
It would be cheaper to build the expanded capacity requirements that will incrementally occur within the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service at GCUH rather than maintain and refurbish GCH with its current bed component.
Post the move to GCUH, the existing Gold Coast Hospital will be closed and decommissioned.
Can you tell us how the GCUH is going to better enable the hospital to maximise its capacity to teach the health professionals of the future?
The aim of delivering GCUH in a precinct setting is precisely to maximise its capacity to partner, collaborate and educate health professionals for the future.
GCUH is the central component of the planned ‘Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct’, and will take advantage of the benefits that come with locating complementary services together including:

  • Strengthening public and private health services by promoting the sharing of facilities, staff and services between GCUH and the soon to be built 232 bed Gold Coast Private Hospital;

  • Offering hands-on training and education amenities for medical, nursing and allied health students;

  • Growing research opportunities by combining expert staff, specialised medical services and technological capacity;

  • Integrating infrastructure developments such as public transport, the hospital and education facilities to provide better access and value for money for the public; and

  • Driving other commercial opportunities including retail, cafes and recreational facilities


How are hospital staff feeling about the project, have they had a chance to get acquainted with their new workplace and the work that is being done?
Both clinical and non-clinical staff are very excited about the pending move to GCUH.
Staff have been actively involved in all aspects of GCUH throughout initial health service planning through to schematic design, detailed design, construction and now commissioning of the facility.
“Gold Coast Health’s partnership with Lend Lease is a major highlight of this project”
- Mr Ron Calvert
Over 200 ‘user groups’ were established across the health service to enable staff to work directly with architects to provide input into the design of the hospital.
Staff have been given the opportunity to regularly visit the site during construction, including undertaking familiarization tours in their new work areas and participating in quality checks to ensure design elements are functional.
In the commissioning phase, staff will be trained in the new facility, supported by a number of tools and resources available to enable them to participate in all activities in the lead up to the physical relocation itself. As an example, some staff will train as ‘super users’ of a particular area or piece of equipment and help to educate their workmates closer to the move.
It is going to be a big move when you finally make the shift into the new building. How long will the actual move take and how much manpower will be involved?
Planning for the move has been underway for some time.
We envisage the clinical move which will include up to 320 patients will take about two days and will probably take place over a weekend, or Friday/Saturday.
Some support services like administrative functions may move up to 2-4 weeks earlier than the clinical move in order to minimize risks.
A number of key stakeholders including Queensland Ambulance Service, volunteers, clinical and non-clinical staff and professional removalists will combine to move patients and equipment from the existing Gold Coast Hospital to the new GCUH which is approximately 4 km away.
How will patient safety be assured?
Patient safety is Gold Coast Health’s highest priority.
The opportunity of building a brand new facility has enabled a thoughtful design, particularly in relation to patient safety.
GCUH exceeds infection control standards which was a key criterion in designing the hospital. GCUH has 70 per cent single bedroom bedrooms that will not only provide increased privacy, but also improve patient safety.
In terms of the move, we are working on a patient relocation strategy that addresses safety as its top priority.
We have paid particular attention to recent hospital evacuations in Bundaberg and previous to that in Cairns due to adverse weather events, where we’ve learned a lot about the issues of relocating a large number of patients over a very short period of time.
We have also been learning from other planned hospital moves in Australia like the new Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and Royal North Shore Hospital redevelopment in Sydney.
A number of strategies will be used throughout the move in order to minimise the risk in terms of patient safety, including transferring some patients to other Gold Coast Health owned facilities, and ramping services like elective surgery down so that the number of patients we physically move is manageable.
Mr Allsopp, the 1.76 billion dollar GCUH is eagerly anticipated in the healthcare community. When can we expect patient admissions begin to take place?
Gold Coast University Hospital (GCUH) is the largest public health infrastructure project undertaken in Australia to date.
We will open GCUH in September 2013, taking our first patient through the emergency department once we’ve moved the existing Gold Coast Hospital to the new site.
The move will take place once we have completed trialling building services, testing the facility and training hospital staff. Our number one priority is safety - safe operation of the facility for both staff and patients. GCUH has capacity of 750 overnight beds.
GCUH is the first public hospital in Australia to have over 70 per cent single patient bedrooms – the national average is 25 per cent. GCUH will grow to become one of Queensland’s largest clinical teaching and research facilities.
We’re one step closer to opening, but have a big job ahead of us – trialling building services, testing technology and equipment and training staff for their new workplace.
The addition of new service capabilities at GCUH will minimise the need for patients to travel to other facilities outside of the Gold Coast to receive some medical treatments.
Mr Michael Allsopp
Executive Director Strategic Development,
Gold Coast Health
» Mike commenced with Queensland Health in 1992 and has over 30 years experience in health administration and capital works, in both New South Wales and Queensland.
Mike’s qualifications include Bachelor of Business, Master of Business Administration and Fellowship of the Australian College of Health Service Managers.
A major focus of Mike’s current role is the development of the new 750 bed Gold Coast University Hospital, the Robina Hospital expansion to 364 beds, and the establishment of the Robina Health Precinct. His role also has responsibility for facilitating the transformation of services and workforce development to enable the commissioning of these facilities for maximum community benefit.
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