Bed block deadline about to expire without solution

The hundred days target the Southern District Health Board set itself to address its issues with bed block is about to pass without them being solved.

A board meeting yesterday agreed the issue was a long-term one which the SDHB would have to continue to work on.

For several months, the board’s hospitals have struggled to cope with higher numbers of patients needing beds and patients having to stay in hospital longer than usual, because of acute health issues.

Those factors combined have caused enormous problems with flow of patients through the hospital, most dramatically demonstrated in March when Dunedin Hospital declared a "Code Black" situation as a large backlog of patients waited in the emergency department for a bed to be found for them.

The SDHB formed a patient flow task force which was charged with finding a response to the problem within 100 days, a deadline which SDHB chairman Pete Hodgson yesterday said he accepted would not be enough.

"We now have to consider what we do in the next 100 days."

Many of the board’s senior management team have been working on the problem, and several initiatives have already been put into place, such as improving "rapid rounds" where staff are updated on patient conditions, and improving discharge dates and plans.

Bed block issues had been most acute over long holiday weekends, and more stringent planning for patient numbers for every weekend was now in place, SDHB director of nursing Jane Wilson said.

Chief medical officer Nigel Millar said the average waiting times in emergency had now decreased, although times to be transferred to a bed were generally static.

More work needed to be done to understand why that was, as the hospital had probably had beds available for use at the time, Dr Millar said.

The clinicians felt the task force might be about 60% through its work so far, but much more effort was needed to get all hospital staff working together to solve the problem.

Community Health Council chairwoman Karen Brown said she doubted the job of solving patient flow issues would ever end, but she was confident everything possible was being done to address it.

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