A history of SA’s troubled new hospital

Adelaide’s new $2.


4 billion hospital will open next week after years of political infighting, cost blowouts, fatal accidents and a naming controversy.

In June 2007 then premier Mike Rann announced the government would build a hospital on the old railway site in Adelaide’s western CBD.

Known as the Marjorie Jackson-Nelson Hospital and costing $1.7 billion, it would replace the existing and historic Royal Adelaide Hospital and be finished by 2016, the premier said.

But if he thought the project would be universally embraced, and the cost unchanged, he was in for a shock, with even the name posing a major headache for the government.

Chosen to honour the former Olympic gold medallist and popular state governor, the plan was quickly drawn into controversy before a brick was laid.

Influential medical figures argued that scrapping the “Royal” moniker would mean losing the international recognition the hospital had.

Others were outraged that the government would consider a change, arguing the “Marj” would simply not do.

“Some of the attacks have been deeply personal, aimed at Marjorie and her contribution, rather than simply at our choice of her name for the new hospital.” Mr Rann told parliament in 2009 after eventually succumbing to public pressure to retain the existing name.

Nevertheless, the criticism continued.

The opposition questioned the need for the project altogether, arguing redeveloping the existing RAH would be more cost effective.

The railway yard site would be a better location for a sports stadium, they said.

There was significant backlash within the medical community with the Save the RAH lobby group also calling for the project to be scrapped and money invested into the existing hospital.

Labor stuck to its guns and after winning the 2010 election started work on clearing the site.

But new Premier Jay Weatherill soon faced more concerns as contaminated soil caused the first of many delays.

Worse was to come with the on-site death of construction worker Jorge Castillo-Riffo who was crushed while operating a scissor lift in 2014.

The government also faced pressure from the Australian Medical Association who repeatedly questioned the size and suitability of the hospital’s facilities.

In 2016, Steve Wyatt became the second worker to die on the site and the premier promised an inquest after workers rallied on the steps of parliament.

By then the hospital had already missed its first scheduled completion date and was set to miss a second.

That was, in part, related to a string of alleged faults, including dodgy air-conditioning, incorrect loading dock sizes, and smaller than expected rooms.

Those issues landed the government and the developers in court before a settlement was reached.

But through all the trials and tribulations the government held firm on its belief that the new Royal Adelaide would prove to be the best hospital in the Australia, among the best in the world and would usher in a new era of medical care.

When it opens on Tuesday, the public – its patients – will finally get to judge that for themselves.