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Seven months since its planned opening date, and with no prospect of an imminent stage two opening, the potential solution to the department’s woes was unveiled by SDHB specialist services executive director Patrick Ng at a hospital advisory committee meeting yesterday.
The old hospital building’s antiquated ventilation system caused a four-month delay last year in opening stage one of the $14.8million project, a 12-bed ward.
Construction on stage 2, with a further 10 critical care beds, has been completed, and the ward should have opened at the start of the year.
It cannot be commissioned because the hospital building’s air handling system is unable to change the air in the new ward’s isolation rooms 14 times an hour.
Mr Ng said staff were regularly meeting engineers, but they had yet to find a way to get the existing air conditioning equipment to perform the task required of it.
"We are looking at building specific air conditioning plant just for the ICU," Mr Ng said.
"What that would involve is putting new plant specifically for the ICU on the sixth floor and connecting the ducting for ICU to that new plant."
That would be complex, as the ward’s air handling system had already been connected to the under-performing main air conditioning plant, which services the whole hospital, he said.
"Our belief is, after talking to the general manager of buildings and property, that it is quite achievable to come [up] with an alternative design and reroute those systems to dedicated plant."
Design for the stand-alone air conditioning system would run parallel to efforts to get the existing system working properly, Mr Ng said.
He was unable to say what the air conditioning initiative might cost or, if it were approved, when the ward could open.
"We do not have a timeline for getting stage 2 open, but we have put an intense focus on that."
The situation is highly frustrating for the SDHB, which commissioned the ICU development to tide it over until it was able to move the unit into the new Dunedin hospital.
It has now lost eight months usage and counting of new, modern facilities.
The proposal will now be considered by the board’s audit and risk subcommittee.