RNA Showgrounds Prepares to Become Field Hospital for Pandemic Victims

The Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland (RNA) has announced that Brisbane’s iconic  showgrounds could reprise a century-old role as a field hospital, housing intensive care facilities, if coronavirus victims threaten to overwhelm the state’s permanent hospitals.

Public gatherings worldwide have already been cancelled or postponed, as the coronavirus scare continues. Ekka, Queensland’s largest annual event, originally  scheduled for August, seems less and less likely to push through as planned, or if it does, may not progress in its normal format. Instead, the RNA Showgrounds may play an equally visible role in the present public health emergency.

“The RNA is working very closely with the Government to ensure the Showgrounds can be utilised as effectively and as quickly as possible to provide temporary hospital accommodation and other health needs as required,” the association wrote in their website.

RNA added: “Our Royal International Convention Centre can be transformed into a functioning hospital, and the RNA will provide every assistance we can to the Government to ensure this occurs.”

RNA Showgrounds, now Brisbane Showgrounds during the Spanish influenza outbreak (Photo credit: Annastacia Palaszczuk / Twitter)

Brisbane Showgrounds, the birthplace of Ekka, offers the largest and most versatile range of indoor and outdoor venues in Queensland. During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the RNA showgrounds was used as a treatment centre for patients. At the time, Australian losses reached as high as 15,000 deaths.

“I hope it doesn’t come to this – I really do – but the Coronavirus pandemic is upon us now and our hospitals and medical staff over the coming months could be under enormous strain,” Ms Palaszczuk said in a media statement.

Ms Palaszczuk said preparations to set-up extra facilities and off-site hospitals are simply a necessity. These facilities would contain and treat people who have contracted the Covid-19 virus and who may have minor difficulties but don’t require intensive care.

The Palaszczuk Government has opened 888 additional hospital beds across the State over the four years to June this year and over the next four years, will deliver a further 756 additional beds.

But If high volumes of cases requiring hospitalisation present, the Premier said Queensland may have to open temporary hospital accommodation and options being investigated include vacant hotels, convention centres and mining camps.

As of 31 March 2020, Queensland has 55 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, raising the state total to 743. The death toll is two: a 68-year-old male from Toowoomba, a 75-year-old woman who was a passenger on the Ruby Princess.

Photo credit: ExCeL London/Facebook

Elsewhere in the world, similar plans to use showgrounds and exhibition centres are in place. In London, the government announced it would turn the ExCeL Centre in London’s Docklands area into a temporary hospital to cope with patients affected by Covid-19.

Meanwhile, a decision on staging the 2020 Ekka will be made within the coming weeks. For updates and important announcements regarding this year’s event, visit ekka.com.au or follow them on Facebook.