Sunshine hospital comes of age

Sunshine Hospital.

Reporter Ben Cameron examines the growth of Sunshine Hospital


As many as 1200 people needing radiology treatment at Sunshine will no longer have to travel to other hospitals for intensive care.

Sunshine Hospital last week opened its new interventional radiology suite, described as the “final piece of the puzzle” in its rollout of intensive care, cardiac and radiology services.

Western Health chief executive, Associate Professor Alex Cockram said the radiology service was an incredibly important resource for the hospital’s patients.

“Over the next 12 months, up to 1200 patients will receive treatment with the aid of this equipment – treatment that they have been unable to receive at this hospital until now,” she said.

She said the suite would complement the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, which will be developed over the next three years.

“This interventional suite will also be invaluable in assisting women with complications during pregnancy or birth,” she said.

Western Health executive director of operations Russell Harrison said the opening marked another major step in the expansion of Sunshine Hospital.

“Since the start of this year, Western Health has undergone some of the biggest changes in its history with the opening of critical-care services at Sunshine Hospital,” she said.

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“The changes signify a milestone in the transition of an excellent health service to one that is able to deliver the highest standard of health care with modern, purpose-built surroundings and equipment.

“These changes place Western Health in the best position to provide the best possible care to the people of the west.”

The radiology suite includes equipment that will enable the hospital to see certain patients quicker and to perform angiography examinations on children.

It will also eliminate the need to transfer some patients to Footscray.

Recent growth

Sunshine Hospital has come a long way in 25 years and some are arguing it has taken its greatest strides in the past six months.

The hospital opened in 1990 with 288 beds as a paediatric, obstetric, gynaecology and sub-acute service.

Over 25 years, it has added a number of strings to its bow, morphing into an acute and sub-acute teaching hospital with about 600 beds.

In recent times, Western Health opened an intensive care unit and cardiac care service, with a number of acute specialties relocated to the hospital, including neurology and stroke, oncology, and respiratory services.

In October last year, Western Health was named the Premier’s Health Service of the Year, an accolade recognising leadership and excellence in providing publicly funded healthcare for Victoria.

It was perhaps a sign of things to come. Western Health executive director of operations Russell Harrison said the hospital has seen “some of the biggest changes in its history” in the past six months.

Its Premier’s award preceded the release of Western Health’s Changing Health for a Changing West document in May last year, a blueprint to meet demand toward 2026 and beyond.

Calling for $550 million to shore up Western Health’s future, the document states the funding would not only deliver much-needed infrastructure but “free up capacity to increase the breadth of services at Sunshine Hospital”.

More specifically, the document called for improved services for women and children at Sunshine Hospital to address an anticipated “critical gap” between what is needed and what is available.

“Not to do so will increase pressure on women’s and children’s centres elsewhere,” it states. “Consolidating and expanding services will not only benefit those accessing women’s and children’s services but will also release much-needed capacity in the main hospital.

“In its simplest terms, services need to be realigned, combined and co-located to increase effectiveness.

“Western Health will soon reach a tipping point,” it found.

Government acts

Pleas for progress were answered in last month’s state budget, with a $200 million women’s and children’s hospital promised for Sunshine and expected to be finished by 2018.

Western Health chief executive Associate Professor Alex Cockram said the new hospital was “critically important” to meet the extraordinary demands of the fast-growing west.

Despite Sunshine having the third-highest number of births of any Victorian hospital, these demands currently operate “in and around a very busy general hospital”, Professor Cockram said. “I am sure that the women and their families in the west will be so relieved to hear of this commitment,” she said in May.

“The number of births at Sunshine Hospital has reached more than 5000, and 7200 births are expected in 2026.

“We simply could not meet that demand without this new hospital,” she said.

“We will also be able to free up large areas to increase the services we offer to our other patients. For example, it will enable us to perform thousands of additional operations each year.”

Several other key services have opened, including the new patient health information centre in the hospital’s main reception area, in September last year. The hospital unveiled a redeveloped children’s ward in December, after 30 years without a makeover.

It also opened its new critical care services in February.

Until then, Sunshine Hospital had been the largest hospital in the state without an intensive care unit as it battled to deal with more than 70,000 emergency department presentations each year. Western Health board chairwoman Bronwyn Pike said it was “one of the most significant days in the history of Western Health and a turning point for the people of this entire region of Melbourne”.

Its Premier’s award preceded the release of Western Health’s Changing Health for a Changing West Hopefully, more significant days lie ahead for Brimbank’s health hub of the west.

Western Health facts and figures