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Atherton Hospital Redevelopment


Atherton Hospital is the major acute and primary hub facility for the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service Tablelands region. It provides services to approximately 45,000 residents distributed across the southern Atherton Tablelands and areas to the west. This includes Atherton, Croydon, Herberton, Malanda, Millaa Millaa, Ravenshoe and Yungaburra.

It is the largest referral centre on the Tablelands and a key health facility for the provision of both frontline and community health care. It offers emergency, general medical and surgical, aged care and low risk maternity services, as well as providing visiting specialist services in paediatrics, gastroenterology, psychiatry and women’s health.

The hospital is 104 years old in parts and is in need of renewal.

About the redevelopment

In the 2016/17 State Budget, the government announced the redevelopment of the Atherton Hospital as part of the $230 million Advancing Queensland’s Health Infrastructure Program (AQHIP).

The redevelopment of Atherton Hospital will provide a new purpose-built Clinical Services Building, which includes an Emergency Department, Medical Imaging, operating theatres, and some replacement inpatient beds. The redevelopment will also refurbish one floor of beds in the existing hospital building, and improve outpatient and community health facilities.

To provide the necessary space to construct the new building, the existing Atherton Community Health Building is unable to be kept. This building, while having provided an important service to the community over the years, is aged and no longer allows for the flexibility required to deliver the contemporary models of health services it once did. It also requires ongoing, and increasingly, costly maintenance.

Even though the building will have to be replaced, the project team are investigating how to best recognise the historical significance and memories of the building. Staff and community members will be offered the opportunity to get involved in activities that will capture and convey the heritage of the building for future generations to come.

The services currently provided in this building will be relocated prior to works commencing, and staff and the community will be kept up-to-date with any service movements.

Stage 1 Redevelopment

Key improvements

Design of the redevelopment is currently underway and the following key elements are proposed for inclusion, subject to further engagement and approval.

  • Improvements to the Emergency Department will provide:
    • separate ambulance access for greater patient privacy
    • improved all weather access to the helipad
    • purpose-built triage areas.
  • A new main hospital entrance on Louise Street will provide safe patient drop off and pick up zones, with improved mobility access and directional signage.
  • Increased number of single-bed ensuite rooms offering privacy for patients.
  • Welcoming and spacious waiting areas with comfortable family friendly zones to better cater for visitors.
  • Upgraded outpatient service facilities for Community Health, Allied Health and Mental Health

Engagement and consultation

Consultation and engagement was held early in the design phase to capture staff, patient, consumer and community needs.

In-depth internal engagement was undertaken with Atherton Hospital staff in the form of User and Special Interest Groups during March and April 2017. These groups helped to inform the redevelopment’s schematic design phase.

Departments the project team consulted with included Emergency, Medical Imaging, Queensland Ambulance Services, Mental Health, Theatres, Endoscopy and Central Sterilising Supply Department, Maternity and Neonatal, Medical/Surgical Services including General Inpatient Care, and Sub-Acute/Palliative Care, Ambulatory Outpatients/ Community Health/Allied Health/Chemotherapy, Building Engineering and Maintenance Services, and Operational Services including Mortuary.

Between March and May 2017, a number of external events were held to engage consumers and community members about the Atherton Hospital Redevelopment. Over 100 community members spoke directly with project team members about the redevelopment. Overall, reactions to the redevelopment were positive while noting community concern about the removal Community Health Building.

Detailed Design next steps

The project team presented the Detailed Business Case to the Department of Health in June 2017 and received approval to proceed to the next phase, Detailed Design. This will involve:

  • ongoing internal  engagement in the format of the user groups reconvening for more detailed discussions with the architects and planning team about the design, and project champions sharing outcomes from these meetings and providing their feedback to the user groups
  • more detailed information about the redevelopment becoming available including expected changes, timelines for the works to be completed, and how these changes will impact staff and patients.
  • ongoing community engagement (which may include activities like formation of a heritage group) to consider ways already suggested of recognising the historical significance of the Community Health Building, as well as identifying any new innovative ways.

Proposed Timeline

  • March - June 2017: Schematic design plans
  • June - October 2017: Commencement of detailed design
  • October 2017 - March 2018: Construction planning and building contractor procurement
  • Mid 2018-2020: Staged construction of new building and refurbishment
  • 2020/21: New building commissioned
  • October 2017 to 2021: ongoing communication and consultation with staff and community

Contact the team

For more information about the project, staff and community are encouraged to contact via email:

Last updated: 29 August 2017