Security guard trial for Dunstan Hospital after hours

Dunstan Hospital. Photo: ODT
Dunstan Hospital. Photo: ODT
An on-site security guard will be trialled at Dunstan Hospital over New Year because of changes to the district's after-hours health system and security concerns.

Central Otago Health Services Ltd acting chief executive Debi Lawry said the use of a security guard would be trialled for about three days over the New Year period.

Ms Lawry and previous health services chief executive Karyn Penno said in their 2018 annual report that the health service's health and safety committee had discussed "a variety of options for keeping our staff safe in a rural location during nightshift with low staff numbers on site".

The security guard being trialled would "be responsible for deferring unwanted visitors away from the ward/patient area", the report said.

"This issue generally occurs when out-of-town people present at hospital expecting to find an A&E (accident and emergency) service."

Ms Lawry said the health service had also used a security guard at Dunstan Hospital over the Alexandra Blossom Festival weekend this year, the first time a one had been used there.

She said there had been times when staff had felt unsafe over some people arriving at the hospital, for example those who were intoxicated or large groups.

The hospital's entrance had a "double door" system whereby people arriving after hours could pass through the unlocked external door but then had to wait in an entrance area before the door to the ward was unlocked. Despite this, staff occasionally had still felt unsafe and the security guard was being trialled to add another layer of safety, Ms Lawry said.

The move was also partly because of recent changes to the Central Otago after hours healthcare system, which meant patients requiring care between 10pm and 8am now had to either phone 111 or receive telephone advice about treatment options from a telephone triaging system.

Central Otago After Hours GPs, which used to provide care between 10pm and 8am, has not done so since November 1 and stakeholders are discussing a possible long-term solution to after-hours healthcare.

Ms Lawry said it was not known if the changes meant more people would come to Dunstan Hospital between 10pm and 8am, but the possibility it might was one of the reasons a security guard was being trialled.

She emphasised Dunstan Hospital had never provided an emergency service for members of the public, but doctors had always treated patients brought there by St John drivers.

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