The Atherton Hospital.
Hospital The Atherton Hospital.

Human remains found at hospital construction site

CONSTRUCTION is back on track at Atherton Hospital after work was temporarily halted due to the discovery of human remains at its redevelopment site.

The Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service has confirmed that excavators unearthed a small bone fragment at the new carpark construction site at the Tablelands healthcare facility last Thursday.

Detectives, scientific and scenes of crime officers, who were called immediately by the health service, cordoned off the area to investigate.

Atherton Hospital.
Atherton Hospital.

A CHHHS spokeswoman said the fragment was believed to have been discarded clinical waste.

Tablelands police Inspector Russell Rhodes said police had liaised with staff at the hospital and identified waste - including body parts - was burnt on site in an incinerator until the 1980s, including during wartime.

He said this practice had since ceased.

Insp Russell said police had also learned ashes from the incinerator were spread over orchard trees within the hospital grounds. An officer had seen other bones near a garden bed.

"It would be expected that further excavation will reveal more bones," he said.

Tablelands Patrol Group Inspector Russell Rhodes. PHOTO: Bronwyn Wheatcroft
Tablelands Patrol Group Inspector Russell Rhodes. PHOTO: Bronwyn Wheatcroft

The hospital, which is the largest health facility on the Tablelands, is more than 100 years old and provides services to more than 45,000 residents.

It is undergoing a $70 million redevelopment, including the addition of a new purpose-built clinical services building, a new community, allied and mental health building, new engineering services buildings, relocation of the helipad, on-site carparking works, internal road upgrades and external infrastructure upgrades.

The existing Atherton Primary Health Centre is being demolished to allow the construction of the new clinical services building.

The CHHHS spokeswoman said police advised the health service on Friday that the site had been adequately examined and did not provide any further concern.

She said there were no further delays to construction at the hospital site.

"The Atherton Hospital redevelopment remains on track," she said.

The hospital upgrades are expected to be completed in early 2022.