Anxiety rose as theatre leaked

Georgia Henderson was having an eye operation when the storm hit. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Georgia Henderson was having an eye operation when the storm hit. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

A Dunedin woman who was having an operation in one of Dunedin Hospital’s leaking operating theatres on Monday has spoken out about the experience.

Georgia Henderson (19) was having an eye operation when staff started mopping up with towels after the storm hit at 3.30pm.

"It made me really anxious. Your surgeon could get distracted and it could make it dangerous."

She said they were fretting about how severe it could become if the rain continued. Staff told her the situation was worse in the theatre next door, where buckets had been placed near the operating table while surgery was in progress, Miss Henderson said.

Staff were not in a position to speak publicly about the situation, Miss Henderson said.

"Because of their contracts, they can’t speak to anyone, but they are sick of it, basically. They feel bad for the patients."

Miss Henderson said the leaks posed an infection risk to patients.

"It’s a huge health and safety risk. It’s unsanitary."

She said she passed by the radiology department after her operation and it was full of towels and buckets.

"To come to a hospital and then have it leak and not be the safe place that’s supposed to make you feel better."

Many other buildings in Dunedin were also affected by Monday’s storm, with retailers and others  mopping up after the intense rain. It delivered 13.6mm of rain in 15 minutes.

Initially, the Southern District Health Board said it was largely unaffected by the deluge, but admitted under questioning at a health select committee the leaks were widespread.

The DHB spent $1.75 million on improvements to the clinical services building in 2014 and 2015 to make the building watertight.  Yesterday, chief executive Chris Fleming said the professionalism of staff ensured services were able to continue on Monday.

"We did not have to cancel any activities and were able to complete procedures that were under way without any clinical risk to patients.

"We acknowledge patients would have been aware of the events, and apologise if the situation caused stress.

"Any patients with any concerns whatsoever are encouraged to contact us directly."

Mr Fleming said the situation highlighted the need for a new hospital. In an official report prepared last year for the hospital rebuild, increased risk of infection in the clinical services building was highlighted.

"A combination of building layout, patient flow, and building condition mean that adverse events relating to delirium, infections, and falls are more likely.

"[There are] challenges maintaining infection control — a number of services have higher rates of infection compared to comparator facilities," the report said.

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