A Canberra Hospital cancer ward closed for construction will be reopened to provide extra beds, as the Barr government ramps up its response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Weston Creek walk-in centre will also become a dedicated respiratory assessment clinic, with patients urged to use other nurse-led walk-in centres across Canberra for other ailments.
More than 1000 people have now been tested for the virus in Canberra, with only one case confirmed so far.
But as the number of cases across Australia hits 250, Canberra Health Services has developed a plan to combat the predicted spread.
An emergency cabinet meeting will be held on Monday morning, where the ACT government will look at declaring a public health emergency.
The Weston Creek walk-in centre, which has been the epicentre of coronavirus testing in Canberra, will now only treat patients with respiratory symptoms.
Anyone seeking medical help for other minor illnesses and injuries will be redirected to one of the other walk-in centres in Belconnen, Gungahlin or Tuggeranong.
Canberra Health Services has also opened another respiratory clinic in Building 3 of Canberra Hospital, to divert people with COVID-19 symptoms from the emergency department if they do not require emergency centre.
The clinic will prioritise health workers who need testing.
Members of the public with symptoms should still call their GP or go to the Weston Creek walk-in centre as their first port of call.
The refurbishment of Ward 14B will also be postponed to provide extra capacity, ahead of an expected influx of coronavirus cases.
Wards 14A and 14B were to undergo a $17.3 million redevelopment in order to provide more single-bed rooms and positive pressure environments - rooms designed so the air flows out, not in, to keep airborne bacteria out and reduce the risk of infection.
Ward 14A was completed in February. Cancer patients moved in last week.
Construction on 14B will be pushed back, to provide an extra 20 beds for coronavirus patients.
But a Canberra Health Services spokesperson said the ward may not necessarily be used explicitly for coronavirus cases.
"14B will be used for additional bed capacity and not necessarily used for COVID-19 related cases," she said.
Canberra Health Services said the cancer patients in Ward 14A would not be at risk.
"14A is a fully self-contained ward with positive pressure technology that ensures all air entering the ward is filtered first and flows out of the ward. It's essentially a brand new ward that is especially designed to keep immuno-suppressed patients safe," the spokesperson said.
"14B will continue to use the external temporary entry implemented to complete the corridor refurbishment. This means the entry is quite separate to 14A."
Canberra Health Services chief executive Bernadette McDonald said she was reviewing the numbers of people presenting for assessment and treatment every day, and was "well placed" to increase capacity and staff numbers if needed.
"We are very proud of and thankful for our hardworking and dedicated staff - in the walk-in centres, pathology and across our services - who continue to provide exceptional care for our community," Ms McDonald said.
It comes as staff at the Weston Creek walk-in centre battle high demand for testing.
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