The champions of Qudos: Cabling, stations and petitioning- how Matt Sydenham turned a concert venue into a vaccination centre

Where most people looked at Qudos Bank Arena and saw one of Sydney’s preeminent entertainment venues, it was Matt Sydenham’s job to reimagine the space as the state’s largest vaccination centre.

Matt is the director of redevelopment and infrastructure at Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD), usually responsible for maintaining and redesigning hospital buildings to meet current and future demand.

It proved fortunate many of the capital works projects were on pause in the early stages of the lockdown as the challenge of getting Qudos Bank Arena ready in record time demanded his undivided attention.

Westmead Vaccination Hub vaccines arriving. Matt Sydenham (Director Redevelopment and Ifrastructure), Marcelle Appay (Pharmacist), Angela Netluch (Pharmacist). Photo taken before mask use was required in hospitals.

“We had 9 days of planning and implementation, so those were very long days onsite to get Qudos Bank Arena ready for the targeted go-live date,” Matt recalls.

“All the project partners were aware of the project importance and the significant impact the service could have on the community. We all shared the common goal.

 “WSLHD had very good success in developing and implementing models of service at our other vaccination centres that we had completed, so what we have here is just a much larger version of what we were already doing well at Westmead and Blacktown.”

Matt Sydenham

While Matt is accustomed to having essentially free reign over WSLHD owned sites, he said the Qudos Bank Arena owners “gave us a lot of freedom” to quickly make building changes as needed.

Those changes included installing 58km of data cabling, 42km of electrical cabling, 12km of security CCTV cabling, 150 vaccination stations, 15 vaccination fridges, 120 pharmacy preparation stations, 2500m2 of modular petitioning, 60 marquees and 5.1km of pedestrian barriers.

After the initial scramble to get everything ready, Matt’s role shifted to focusing on minor adjustments for any day-to-day challenges.

“That’s what we do in WSLHD. We don’t kick back and say ‘our work here is done’, we’re always focused on how we can further refine and improve quality for better outcomes” he said.

“WSLHD has a strong governance and leadership team. At no point did anyone throw up their hands and say ‘that can’t be done’. We’ve got a brilliant team responding extremely well to these challenges, and I’m fortunate to have a leadership role as part of that team.

“For me this has been a great opportunity to provide input to a project with a truly history-changing impact on the broader community through a very difficult and challenging time.”

Matt Sydenham with the first vaccine delivery to Qudos Bank Arena

As the team now begins to pack down and move out of Qudos Bank Arena – having administered more than 360,000 vaccinations at the site – Matt is turning his attention to planning the relocation of Mental Health Services from Cumberland West to Westmead, progressing the current development of new mental health facilities at Blacktown Hospital, further redevelopment activities at Westmead Hospital, and progressing with planning for the new Rouse Hill Hospital.

“The last day at Qudos Bank Arena will present an opportunity to look back at a truly remarkable history making achievement,” Matt said.

Walk-in Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccinations will be available at Qudos Bank Arena until 7 November 2021 for both first and second doses.

Vaccination appointments are available at more than 3000 locations across NSW including pharmacies, GPs and NSW Health clinics – including the NSW Health Vaccination Centre, Sydney Olympic Park (Figtree Drive), and Blacktown Hospital Vaccination Clinic. Find the next available appointment at a location near you here.