Progress on ICU air conditioning

New air-conditioning machinery will be installed in a bid to get Dunedin Hospital’s multimillion-dollar new intensive care department fully functional.

Ventilation issues delayed the opening of stage one of the project for four months in 2018-19; the second stage was meant to open at the start of this year, but its 10 critical care beds remain unused.

The project has been bedevilled by the hospital building’s old air-conditioning machinery, which has proven inadequate to meet the demands of a modern critical care unit.

The isolation room in the new ward is meant to have its air changed 14 times an hour, a demand the current ventilation system is unable to meet.

The Southern District Health Board has been meeting engineers regularly for the past few months in an attempt to resolve the problem and get the $14.8 million project fully open.

SDHB specialist services executive director Patrick Ng said an independent engineering firm had assessed the air-conditioning plant in the hospital building and identified where there were air pressure drops across the system.

Those issues would be systematically addressed by the ICU project’s original engineering contractors, Mr Ng said.

"We are expecting a high-level project plan for how these issues will be addressed and this is expected to drive the overall timeline for the completion of Stage 2.

"We hope to have the high-level plan in the next few weeks."

Although the SDHB hoped to have the air pressure issues fixed, it had also decided it needed to have new air-conditioning plant installed in the floor above the new ICU.

"The timeframe to complete this is expected to be within the period required to address the pressure point drops," Mr Ng said.

"We expect in the next few weeks to have an initial timeframe for the completion of work to bring the air handling plant up to the appropriate standard, which will give us more certainty about when the unit can be opened."

The new ICU was commissioned by the SDHB to tide it over until the new Dunedin Hospital is built.

It replaces a dark, cramped ward that has poor facilities for patients, their families and staff with bright, spacious rooms and modern equipment, an upgrade staff have been eagerly awaiting.

Mr Ng did not give a timeframe for when the second stage of the upgrade might finally be commissioned.

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