Rebuild must have elderly first in mind

Dunedin's ageing population will have to be first and foremost in the thinking of those in charge...
Dunedin's ageing population will have to be first and foremost in the thinking of those in charge of the hospital rebuild. Photo: ODT files
The rebuild of Dunedin Hospital must have the demands of an ageing population at the forefront of its design, Southern District Health Board chief medical officer Nigel Millar says.

Dr Nigel Millar
Dr Nigel Millar

Health Minister David Clark will soon make a decision where in the Dunedin CBD the billion-dollar-plus rebuild of the city's hospital will be.

The focus will then move from where to build to what will be built, and the needs of older people needed to be uppermost in the design process, Dr Millar, a geriatrician, said.

"Every department of the hospital is going to face a growing need for care for older people, who have complex health conditions, multiple medications and the social challenges of maybe being old and having some sort of disability.

"I have always said that if we focus on designing better in-patient services in the new hospital for older people, that they will work brilliantly for younger people."

Dealing with a younger patient with appendicitis was relatively easy as it was likely to be their only health issue, Dr Millar said.

However, if an 86-year-old came to hospital with gall bladder problems they might also have several other health issues across hospital departments, which needed to be understood and managed.

"When we encounter people, it helps to have that back knowledge," Dr Millar said.

"New Zealand is well-placed because we have invested in a standardised age care assessment protocol ... the information is recorded in great detail and is available across the health system, perhaps not as well as it should be but our intention is for it to be more widely available."

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