Better Health South - Board Update April 2021

Pete Hodgson, Chair
Pete Hodgson, Chair

Code black, and all that.

Readers may recall me talking about the ‘patient task force’ recently, and about how we are addressing the high hospital occupancy that we have been facing this past summer.

Then, in late March, Dunedin Hospital hit the national headlines by going into ‘code black’. What does ‘code black’ mean, and how come we ran into trouble just as we were rolling out the ‘patient task force’?

The answer to the first question is pretty easy. Code black was called, by our Chief Executive, because around 7am one morning we had 18 people waiting in the Dunedin Hospital’s emergency department for a bed, yet there were no beds available.

Thankfully, staff responded rapidly and thoroughly. Patients who were waiting to go home were quickly assessed and, if they were well enough, discharged. Within eight hours the hospital was well out of trouble.

The answer to the second question is harder. It is still the result of analysis. Sorting the facts from what we think the facts might be is rather important.

The early money is on the Otago Anniversary long weekend that preceded the ‘code black’ event. Perhaps a few more staff took an extra day’s annual leave; perhaps some patients weren’t given the discharge criteria they needed to go home; perhaps patients could have gone home if only their support hadn’t taken a long weekend away; perhaps the poor old Dunedin Hospital is wearing out which is why we are building a new one. And on it goes. But these thoughts are conjecture, and such conjecture needs to be replaced by good analysis. That takes time.

So, as I write this, the answer is ‘we don’t yet know for sure’.

But we will find out, for sure, because we must. Only then can we stop it happening again.

Check out these other Better Health South Stories:
Disability Strategy launched
Junction Health prioritising maternal health
Suture skills shared
Social support for NICU families
Covid-19 vaccination underway
Wishbone Walk fundraiser
Borewater information sessions


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