Critical care stage two upgrade under way

Chris Flemming. Photo: ODT files
Chris Flemming. Photo: ODT files
Stage two of the troubled upgrade of Dunedin Hospital's critical care wards has begun, the Southern District Health Board commissioners meeting heard yesterday.

The first stage of the $14.8million improvement to intensive care and high dependency services was meant to receive its first patients last December, but issues with air tightness in the ward's isolation room meant it did not open until March 8.

The issues with stage 1 of the redevelopment has put back the planned opening date for stage 2, which comprises an extra 10 beds.

From an intended midyear finish, SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming said yesterday it was now intended work would finish September or October.

Patients and staff would start to use the extra space by December, he hoped.

''If there are any delays in September we will push it [the opening date], as they will not open an ICU in the immediate run up to Christmas.''

The delay in opening the critical care ward had contributed towards a recent high rate of cancellation of cardiothoracic operations, specialist services executive director Patrick Ng said.

''The numbers I have seen suggest that in the last quarter of last year we were cancelling up to 55% of cardiothoracic cases because we either didn't have nursing staff or we didn't have ICU beds.''

Cancellation rates had since dropped to around 35% but the service was still under pressure, he said.

''We have since managed to get additional nursing resource into the ICU.''

This week refurbishment work started on the day surgery unit.

Commissioners were told it had been disruptive, but should be completed this week.

Meanwhile, commissioners were told the efforts to improve the SDHB's delivery of elective surgery were at risk due to a possible week-long strike by resident doctors.

The Resident Doctors Association, whose union remains at loggerheads with DHBs over their unsettled employment contract dispute,

is balloting members on a possible week-long strike.

Mr Ng said if industrial action went ahead, it would potentially wipe out the surplus surgical teams had achieved.

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