Plans to expand Cairns Hospital’s emergency department have been accelerated, with construction to start in September.

The $26.4 million project is expected to be complete six months earlier than originally planned, according to the state government’s announcement today.

The expansion includes additional treatment and resuscitation bays, an extra procedure room to treat and discharge less-critical patients, and six more treatment spaces.

The plan also includes a refurbishment of the resuscitation area, waiting room and X-ray facilities, as well as a partial refurbishment of some existing clinical areas.

The existing ED will remain operational throughout the construction.


Member for Cairns Michael Healy has welcomed the announcement this morning by Queensland Health Minister, Yvette D’Ath.

“A project manager has already been appointed and it’s all systems go to kickstart construction in September,” Mr Healy said.

“As a result, the expanded ED is now expected to be delivered six months ahead of schedule.


“I can’t wait to see works get underway to deliver an improved ED to cater to the ever-increasing demand for emergency care in Cairns.

While the expansion has been welcomed by local health professionals, some say it will do little to address hospital overcrowding.

Dr Sandy Donald, an anaesthetist and representative of the union Together Queensland, told Tropic Now while the ED expansion will be useful, it’s not enough to prevent overcrowding.

“Staff believe overcrowding in the ED and ramping of ambulances have justified code yellow declarations on a number of additional occasions,” he said.

“The extension of the Emergency Department is in planning stage but that is a small number of ED beds.

“Increasing the size of the Emergency Department is necessary but it doesn’t solve the code yellow or the ambulance ramping, because for that you also need inpatient beds.

“It won’t make a difference because overcrowding is a problem of the whole health system, not just the ED."

The solution, he believes, is to free up entire wards in the short-term and plan for an entirely new block in the longer term.

James Cook University (JCU) is pushing ahead with its plans for a teaching hospital neighbouring the current building and has received $60 million in Federal Government funding.

Last week, JCU signed a historic land deal with the Palaszczuk Government and the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service (CHHHS).

The Premier had previously committed $15 million to the Cairns University Hospital’s land acquisition, but JCU brokered a $10 million deal for the site bordering Sheridan, Grove, Charles and Digger streets.

The key parties have reached a commercial in confidence agreement, meaning the State Government’s final investment isn't yet publicly known.

The state government has allocated the $26.4 million required for the Cairns Hospital ED expansion, while the Premier is expected to deliver the next Budget on Tuesday. 


Main points

  • The $26.4 million upgrade of the Cairns Hospital's ED is expected to be delivered six months earlier
  • Six extra treatments spaces will be built, as well as additional resuscitation bays and a procedure room
  • The news comes soon after a major step forward on the separate Cairns University Hospital project
This ED expansion is about strengthening the local health network to respond to the future health needs of the community.
Michael Healy
Member for Cairns