Dunedin Hospital restrictions eased as virus wanes

Elective services at Dunedin Hospital are due to return to normal next week as the number of new norovirus cases continues to drop.

Otago District Health Board operations manager Megan Boivin said scheduled appointments would go ahead on Monday as long as new infections of the highly infectious virus kept declining.

How and when those appointments postponed in the past week would be re-scheduled was still being discussed, but those affected would not go to the bottom of the waiting list, she said.

All wards, except one, were re-opened for admissions yesterday, and the number of patients in isolation dropped from 30 to 18.

Only 15 of them had norovirus symptoms.

The final ward is expected to re-open today.

Six more patients and staff fell ill with the virus yesterday, compared with 11 Thursday, 24 on Wednesday and 16 on Tuesday.

In total, almost 100 staff and 73 patients had contracted the virus.

Visiting restrictions would remain in place during this weekend and the main entrance would continue to be manned by security staff, she said.

Hand hygiene protocols would be enforced for those allowed access to the hospital.

Next week, visiting hours of 2pm to 8pm would be strictly enforced, Mrs Boivin said.

Adherence to visiting hours had become fairly lax in the past, and the tougher stance on visiting times would be in place indefinitely.

"We are asking people to respect that."

The only exemptions to the stricter hours would be the neonatal intensive care unit, the intensive care unit and the paediatric ward.

Those attending outpatient clinics next week should go straight to their appointment and refrain from spending more time than necessary in the hospital.

Visiting restrictions were lifted at Wakari Hospital on Thursday.

More than 2300 procedures, including elective surgery, outpatient visits and planned admissions, have been postponed because of the outbreak and subsequent hospital restrictions.

Chief medical officer Richard Bunton said waiting times for some services would be increased.

Good hand hygiene is the most important way people can protect themselves from the spread of illness.

Hands should be washed for 20sec with soap and water, and dried thoroughly for 20sec with clean towels.

Anybody with diarrhoea or vomiting should stay away from work or school, and not visit hospitals or rest-homes, until they had been free of all symptoms for 48 hours.


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