ICU delay months from over

Health workers take part in ICU training for Covid-19. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas
Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas
The long-awaited opening of stage two of Dunedin Hospital’s intensive care unit upgrade appears to still be many months away.

The unit, which was intended to have received its first patients in March, sits unused, problems with ventilation in the wards still unsolved.

The Southern District Health Board has said that the ward, which has 10 critical care beds, would not be commissioned until the ventilation issues - similar to problems that also delayed the opening of the $14.8 million first stage of the project - were resolved.

Poor ventilation systems are just one of many issues with the old building, which will be replaced as part of the new Dunedin Hospital project.

The much-needed ICU upgrade was designed to tide the hospital over until that time, but eight months after its due date, expectant staff and patients are still waiting for their modern new facilities to be fully opened.

The hospital building’s air handling system is unable to change the air in the new ward’s isolation rooms the required 14 times an hour.

For several months, engineers have been poring over the building’s ventilation systems trying to resolve the issue.

"There are 17 systems in total which may need to be reviewed," SDHB facilities and property general manager Paul Pugh said.

"We hope this work by the engineers will be completed by early next year, with a view to the physical works being done through 2021."

The engineers had identified points where air pressure dropped across the various ventilation systems, and they needed to be systematically addressed, Mr Pugh said.

"The original engineers for the ICU project are working through these pressure drops and have done a number of trials on site with the systems.

"These have been modelled and the early stages of these are being peer-reviewed and in turn will be passed to contractors for carrying out the works."

The SDHB is desperate to get the ward operational and has considered a range of options for doing so, including building the ICU its own dedicated air conditioning system.

It had hoped it might be open by the end of the year, but it will now be wondering how many months into next year the necessary work will take.

Meanwhile, the SDHB has tendered for a firm to assess the air conditioning system in the entire clinical services building.

Mr Pugh said the assessment was not specific to any known issue or failure, but was precautionary.

"We are being proactive in managing plant and equipment over the next few years to ensure they deliver the best performance and operation in the clinical services building until the new hospital is open," he said.

The assessment would determine whether the upgrade was needed now, and could be kept in reserve if it ended up being required later, Mr Pugh said.


Just as well we are isolated from the pandemic sweeping the world because the SDHB couldn't cope.
It's about time we had some changes with the management of our public health system. If they can't do the job, they shouldn't be there.







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