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Some clinicians are deeply concerned about losing three inpatient beds, one labelling the decision "ridiculous".
However, hospital planners say the number of beds has been carefully decided after much consultation, and point out that other child-specific spaces are included in the overall hospital design.
The final shape of the new hospital and which services will be provided in it are still not confirmed, as the detailed business case for the $1.4 billion-plus project has not yet been approved by Cabinet.
At present there are 19 inpatient beds in the Dunedin Hospital children’s ward and five assessment beds in the paediatric assessment unit.
The latest plan is for the new ward to have four assessment beds and 16 inpatient beds — an allocation which was boosted from an initial 14 beds after what the Otago Daily Times understands were strong objections from staff.
Clinicians spoken to asked not to be named, but said they were concerned the proposed number of beds would not be enough to keep up with population increases and could mean beds might not be available for provincial patients coming to Dunedin for treatment.
John Adams, chairman of the Clinical Leadership Group being consulted on the shape of the new Dunedin Hospital, said the design of the ward had gone through a "robust process", and had included looking at occupancy levels and population growth projections, in discussion with children's ward clinicians.
"We anticipate that the capacity we have agreed will be adequate for the vast majority of the time, but as with any service, there will be times of peak demand where resources will be strained," Dr Adams said.
"Knowing that we must provide a proper and specialised environment for all children who need to be admitted to hospital, we are continuing to discuss the design of Child Health services in both the inpatient and outpatients buildings to achieve the best result that we can for the region’s sick children and their families.”
As well as the children’s ward, the new hospital would include something clinicians and parents have called for, a dedicated area for children in the emergency department.
"That is to provide a better environment for the ED assessment and immediate treatment by ED clinicians of children presenting there," Dr Adams said.
"The outpatient building will also provide four beds as part of children’s day unit — these are for patients that have traditionally gone to the paediatric assessment unit but have a different set of needs."
Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Sarah Dalton said she had been advised the consultation process had gone well, and staff were pleased requests for more resources for neonatal intensive care looked like being answered.