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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 a new mental health unit at Cairns Hospital to provide acute mental health services for Far North Queenslanders.

The new purpose-built unit is expected to open in 2022.


A robust planning process including clinicians, architects, engineers, consumer representatives and health facility planners took place throughout 2019 to develop detailed 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


In July 2020, Hutchinson Builders were awarded a contract to undertake an Early Works program at the Mental Health Unit Redevelopment.

The Early Works package involves demolition of the existing buildings on site and removal of all in-ground services.

It is expected that Early Works will be completed by the end of 2020.

A tender for the second stage of construction of the new multi-storey unit will go out early in 2021.

Mental Health Unit - under construction

Engagement and consultation

Throughout the design and construction stages, consultation is occurring with clinicians, hospital staff, consumer and carer representatives as well as adjoining neighbours to produce a functional and affordable design and minimise any disruptions during early works.

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

Last updated: 25 February 2020