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Mental Health Unit Redevelopment


Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service (CHHHS) is the major provider of mental health services across both Cairns and the Hinterland and Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Services.

The State Government has provided a $70 million capital investment towards mental health services for Far North Queensland.

Detailed planning and consultation has been underway to determine how best to use the infrastructure funding in order to revitalize mental health services in the region and support contemporary service delivery.


A business case was developed in 2018, exploring more than 20 options for infrastructure improvements across the Mental Health Service.

Following this, a robust planning process including clinicians, architects, engineers, consumer representatives and health facility planners was ongoing throughout 2019 to obtain resolution on designs and plans for the mental health unit.

This process led to the decision to develop a 53-bed multi-storey acute care facility on-site at Cairns Hospital on the corner of Lake Street and Kerwin Street. This outcome will create five extra beds for the mental health service.

To cater for the seamless provision of inpatient mental health services to the community during construction of the new facility, an interim unit with 20 beds has been opened inside the hospital in D Block.

Features of the interim unit include private rooms with ensuites which capture views of the ocean, wall size artwork featuring images of the far north’s stunning natural landscapes and a sensory modulation space to create an ambient environment for consumers.

Schematic design

Schematic designs have been developed through a consultative process with a diverse range of stakeholders. In November 2019 schematic concept designs of the facility were completed in order to move into the detailed design and construction phase.

The design maximises use of the available site and surrounding environment. The health service has agreed to take advantage of all existing space on the hospital grounds to construct the multi-storey building to provide more clinical space with greater therapeutic benefits.

The artist impressions, created by architects Thomson Adsett, have evolved as part of a consultative design process with a range of stakeholders including community and carer groups.

Mental Health Unit Redevelopment - Kerwin - Esplanade view

Kerwin Street and Esplanade view

Mental Health Unit Redevelopment - Lake - Kerwin view

Lake and Kerwin Street view

The unit’s design allows for a good line of sight throughout the facility, it also enables natural light to penetrate inside the interior and provides shared consumer spaces and therapeutic outdoor areas.

Bedrooms will be located around the edge of the building with recessed windows to allow light to penetrate internal living spaces and maximise outdoor views.

The new mental health unit will interface with the existing block A building on the hospital grounds with the entrance at the corner of Lake and Kerwin Streets.

The following key design principles were considered in this project:

  • Therapeutic environment
  • Culturally appropriate
  • Sustainable design
  • Flexible
  • WIFI enabled
  • Operationally efficient and safe for staff and patients
  • Access provided to outdoor space
  • Clear line of sight
  • Legible (easy way finding)
  • Quality shared social spaces
  • Opportunities for consumer privacy

Next stage

Since late last year, the project team has moved into the next phase working on the detailed design of the redevelopment.

The demolition of the existing two-storey acute mental health unit on the hospital site will start in 2020.

Patients from the existing unit have been transferred to the interim unit inside the hospital.

Engagement and consultation

Throughout the design planning stages, consultation is occurring with clinicians, hospital staff, consumer and carer representatives to inform and produce a functional and affordable design.

For any further information or queries about the project, staff and community are encouraged to email:

Last updated: 25 February 2020