The government has been forced to look at new sites to build its $500 million flagship election promise, an expansion of Canberra Hospital, over fears of a cost and time blowout.
Documents obtained by The Canberra Times through freedom of information laws show early planning work has hit a speed bump due to the planned location of the new SPIRE centre on a site with a helipad and car park.
The expected opening of the new $500 million Surgical Procedures, Interventional Radiology and Emergency (SPIRE) centre has already been pushed back to 2024, after it was originally planned to be open by 2022.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris said construction was still due to start in 2020, despite the problems with the planned site.
The centre would include a new purpose-built building at the Canberra Hospital site at Garran connected to building 12.
The expansion will boost the number of operating theatres from 13 to 20, and add another emergency department to the hospital.
It would include two inpatient wards with 64 beds, new critical care and imaging facilities, a 24-bed high-level coronary care unit and a 48-bed intensive care unit.
The opposition said the backdown showed the government made the policy on the run in the lead up to the 2016 election as a counter to its own pledge.
The SPIRE centre was proposed after the Liberal Party announced it would build a new building at Canberra Hospital at a cost of about $400 million if elected, based on a plan proposed by Labor years earlier but later ditched.
The partially redacted question time brief prepared for Ms Fitzharris said there had been "logistical challenges" at the current proposed site for the new section of the hospital.
"In particular, the immediate works required to replace the helicopter landing site and 350 car parks, which unlock the site for SPIRE construction to commence, is a challenge to both the delivery time frames and costs of the project," the briefing said.
"The next design phase of the project will include an infrastructure master plan which will investigate alternate site options."
A spokeswoman for Ms Fitzharris confirmed the government was looking at different sites to build the SPIRE centre.
“SPIRE is a very important health investment for the territory that requires careful planning and design," she said.
"The Canberra Hospital campus is an operational site where existing health services are delivered and will need to continue to be delivered while construction is underway."
She said the government would be considering potential site options later this year and would make further public comment before Christmas.
The spokeswoman said the government would speak to clinical staff in the next few weeks about planning work currently underway.
But the final staging and scheduling of the works could change with "project due diligence" underway as part of early planning.
“At this early stage it is anticipated that construction will commence in 2020, with SPIRE planned for completion in 2023-24," the spokeswoman said.
Opposition health spokeswoman Vicki Dunne said the documents showed the planning work completed so far had been a waste of money.
“Clearly, ACT Labor developed its SPIRE policy on the back of a beer coaster," she said.
“Of course, Labor needed to say something to counter the Liberals' policy to transform the Canberra Hospital.
“In the heat of an election campaign ACT Labor got away with its dishonesty.
“Labor's constantly shifting deadlines show that they are not really interested in building a renewed Canberra Hospital."