Health groups have hit out at the government for failing to consult with them and rushing its planning of Canberra Hospital's major expansion project.
Health consumer and disability advocates say they are disappointed the government will not reconsider the chosen site of the expansion, dubbed SPIRE, which they believe creates significant issues.
The SPIRE project was announced weeks before the 2016 election, however the groups say consultation with them only began late last year.
While it was originally planned to be ready by 2022, the current completion date is slated for 2024.
The Health Care Consumers' Association ACT president Alan Thomas said to date there had been no consumer representation in the decision making processes for the SPIRE project.
"This is something we want to see remedied," he said in submission to a parliamentary inquiry.
Dr Thomas said consumer consultation risked becoming tokenistic, having only began in late 2019, well after the proposed site and scope of services for the SPIRE project had already been determined.
"[The association] is concerned and disappointed that consumers, carers and other key stakeholders were not consulted during the early planning and design decisions made regarding the SPIRE project," he said.
Dr Thomas said he was concerned the unrealistically tight timeline to complete the project would hamper the capacity SPIRE to deliver high quality and safe health care.
"It also has the potential to put undue pressure on already busy Canberra Health Services staff and could lead to decisions being made without sufficient time to properly consider important clinical issues," he said.
The submission also raised concerns for the safety and privacy of patients who require urgent transfer from other areas of the hospital - such as the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children - to SPIRE for emergency surgery or intensive care.
Women With Disability ACT CEO Clare Moore said consumers including women with disabilities had not been engaged during the early planning, design and site selection for the SPIRE project.
"Several [of the group's] members and other community stakeholders have expressed dissatisfaction with the consultation process, feeling that their concerns have been dismissed regarding accessibility or decisions have already been made by the time they have been consulted," the group's submission said.
"We are also concerned that the [hospital's] master plan is not being finalised until after the SPIRE project has begun works, which is not ideal for development of a cohesive Plan."
The group also raised concerns about plans to cut off access to Hospital Road via Gilmore Crescent, fearing it could cause major access issues for people with mobility and vision impairments.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said upon taking the health portfolio, she was disappointed when she heard consumer groups and disability advocates felt there had been a lack of consultation.
"Since then, I have worked to emphasise the importance of consumer and community engagement in this very important project," she said.
"Major Projects Canberra has also sought to improve the functioning of the consumer reference group for the project and to engage directly with the whole-of-government disability reference group."
She said her decision to establish a local community reference group in November has complemented conversations underway in clinical advisory groups.
"I was pleased to attend the consumer reference group's virtual meeting on May 13 and will continue to work with Major Projects Canberra and Health Care Consumers' Association to integrate consumer and clinician engagement as the project progresses through detailed design.
"It is important to remember that there is still a long way to go in the design and development of this complex project.
"The Government recognises that there are no perfect answers when constructing a significant new facility at an existing tertiary hospital. The SPIRE development is the biggest investment in health infrastructure since self-government and many factors were taken into account in determining its location on the Canberra Hospital campus."