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Emergency 500-bed hospital to deal with coronavirus patients was planned for Sydney's Olympic Park

ABC Health logo ABC Health 31/07/2020 By Jonathan Hair
the roof of a building: The makeshift facility would be erected at The Dome in Sydney's Olympic Park. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair) © Provided by ABC Health The makeshift facility would be erected at The Dome in Sydney's Olympic Park. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)

Leaked plans show NSW health authorities prepared for a coronavirus worst-case scenario with a makeshift hospital at Sydney's Olympic Park.

The plans, obtained by the ABC, show the detailed layout of the makeshift facility.

The building, known as The Dome, and Exhibition Hall 4, at Sydney Showgrounds, would be turned into a 552-bed ward.

The two buildings, which are attached, would have a long corridor running through the middle, and dozens of beds on each side for patients.

Stage one of the plans would see 264 beds created, while stage two would add another 288 beds.

But the hospital was never needed.

"In the event of a major increase in cases, NSW Health has undertaken planning to ensure it is able to respond as quickly as needed," it said in a statement.

"NSW Health put in place plans to increase capacity in public hospitals, increase capacity in private hospitals, and considered locations for temporary hospitals.

"The latter was not pursued as projected bed capacity was already achieved in existing public and private hospitals," it said.

The plans look similar to photographs from 1919, when Spanish Flu gripped Australia, and prominent buildings were converted into hospitals.

The Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, which leases the land and buildings, confirmed it was approached by NSW Health about the contingency plans in March when "the situation was unknown".

But it said it had since not had discussions about the plan.

Despite the recent increase in community transmission in NSW, it is understood the plans for the showgrounds are still on ice, as they were created for worst-case scenario in the early days of the pandemic.

"We are preparing our public hospitals to have additional intensive care and bed capacity, and have partnered with the private hospitals to ensure that they are available to provide services to support the public system," NSW Health said.

"NSW is working toward capacity of around 2,000 ICU beds, currently there is capacity of well over 1,500," it said.

The Dome is described as a "spectacular timber structure" on its website, and has space for a 6,000-person cocktail party.

It is air conditioned, and usually used for events including hosting stalls during the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

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