Two new hospitals to sit next to future Arden railway station
New campuses of the Royal Melbourne and Royal Women’s Hospitals will sit next to the future Arden Metro Tunnel station from 2031 in a state government plan that could transform the local precinct.
Billed as the “biggest hospital project in Australia’s history”, Premier Daniel Andrews announced that while trauma and emergency care would remain at the hospitals’ current location in Parkville — which would also be upgraded in stage two of the $6 billion project — less urgent care would be moved to the new Arden medical precinct.
The government projects that the new Arden hospitals will have 1800 beds and treatment spaces, and be able to deliver an extra 10,500 elective surgeries per year.
Construction on the project could begin once the new Metro Tunnel station was opened, currently slated for 2025, and would take around six years to complete.
Mr Andrews said the existing and proposed hospitals would be connected by the tunnel, which would allow a “two-minute trip” between the Parkville and Arden campuses.
The Premier said the new Arden hospitals would accommodate less critical care, while emergencies would remain in Parkville.
“Planned care; outpatients, rehabilitation, elective surgery — less urgent but no less important care — will be provided here at Arden,” he told reporters.
The government expressed it in even simpler terms: “Put simply, if you’re seeing a heart specialist, you’ll visit your doctor at RMH Arden – and if you’re having a heart attack, you’ll be taken to the RMH Parkville”, it said in the October 4 announcement.
Healthcare has emerged as a key battleground for the upcoming November state election and voters have been inundated with various announcement in recent weeks, but this one was by far the largest.
“These hospitals belong to us all – they care for some of the sickest and most seriously hurt patients and Victorians are rightly proud of them - but they’re outgrowing their current sites,” Mr Andrews said.
“We’re starting the biggest health infrastructure project in our nation’s history, growing our healthcare workforce and giving workers more training and research opportunities than ever before.”
Chair of the North and West Melbourne Association Kevin Chamberlin said he was delighted with what the announcement meant for the local area.
“This is a fantastic outcome for the Arden precinct and the surrounding communities, and ticks far more boxes than more residential high-rise overdevelopment,” he told North West City News.
“The employment and other opportunities are endless for people in the surrounding suburbs. It also takes pressure off the established parts of North Melbourne along Flemington Rd where we believe various research and hospital institutions over the years have cast their eye for redevelopment of property with significant built form and heritage controls.”
Mr Chamberlin said the move ensured a balanced future for the growing area.
“The new medical precinct really gives some meaning and substance to the Arden structure plan. It was previously too reliant on unsustainable residential over-development – it’s a far more sustainable outcome in the longer term.”
The Royal Women’s Hospital Women’s CEO Professor Sue Matthews welcomed the announcement and said co-location with the Royal Melbourne Hospital at Arden meant women and babies would significantly benefit.
“With a second campus at Arden, the Women’s will be able to provide world-class contemporary models of care for more women and babies that are appropriate and responsive to their needs,” Professor Matthews said.
“A second campus will also provide additional research and development opportunities, as well as an expansion of training and education for midwives, nurses, doctors and allied health professionals.”
RMH chief executive Professor Christine Kilpatrick similarly welcomed the news.
“This is a very exciting announcement, and we couldn’t be happier to hear we will be able to rebuild our hospital,” she said.
“This is part of more than 18-months of careful planning and we look forward to working alongside the Women’s as we grow our hospitals.”
The government has committed to an initial investment of over $2 billion to fund the first hospital within the Arden precinct, however more detailed costings were expected in the pre-election budget update.
Mr Andrews was adamant the project was a government announcement rather than an election promise.
“It’ll be complex and yes, it takes time. But it is absolutely the investment that we need to make now to set our state up for the future,” he said.
The opposition has said it would keep the already-allocated funds within the health system but stopped short of committing to the project. •
Caption 1: An artist impression of the new Arden medical precinct.
Caption 2: The upgraded Royal Melbourne and Royal Women’s hospitals in Parkville will link with the new Arden campuses via the Metro Tunnel.