Dunedin Hospital says beds a ‘balancing act'

Dunedin Hospital managed to avert a bed shortage crisis during the weekend when staff were expected to admit more patients than they had beds available.

Otago District Health Board operations manager Megan Boivin said the hospital only had seven beds available at one stage on Friday and were preparing for a possible ‘‘code black'' alert during the weekend.

Mrs Boivin said the alert was issued on Monday and Tuesday last week when the hospital had six beds available, prompting the postponement of all elective procedures.

However, a ‘‘settled day'' in the emergency department and the discharge of 33 patients by 4pm on Saturday avoided a repeat of the situation.

‘‘It is a balancing act still, but certainly things are a lot more comfortable than they were this time last week.''

Mrs Boivin said there were 29 free beds at Dunedin Hospita last night, but the situation was being closely monitored.

Nursing shortages and long term sick leave were blamed for the shortages. Nurse to patient ratios were being stretched from one to four. The hospital had about 60 vacancies for nurses and about 20 positions in emer gency medicine and surgery services.

The hospital operated frequently in code red - the level down from code black - and the issue of bed availability would remain until mid-April when nursing vacancies would be filled, she said.

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