Pressure on southern hospitals continues

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
Southern hospitals will be short of beds again this weekend, due to the ongoing pandemic and continuing staff shortages.

Last weekend the Southland Hospital Covid-19 ward was at capacity, the Dunedin Hospital ward was fast approaching capacity, and the emergency department in Dunedin was swamped with patients from Saturday night onwards, causing major delays for people waiting to be seen.

Hospital managers are having to juggle high demand, staff shortages exacerbated by the pandemic and winter illnesses, and the ability for beds to be safely staffed.

"There remains high numbers of Covid-19 positive patients in hospital across the southern district," a Southern District Health Board spokeswoman said.

"There continues to be sustained pressure on hospital capacity as a result of high numbers of inpatients and staffing constraints."

Yesterday nurses were being called in from days off to cover shifts, something which has become a regular occurrence.

Yesterday there were 10 patients with Covid-19 in Southland Hospital, below the capacity of its ward dedicated to pandemic cases.

In Dunedin Hospital however, there were 23 cases, perilously close to the point where the overflow ward on the sixth floor might be needed for the first time.

One additional person with Covid-19 was in intensive care in Dunedin, and one case was being treated in Oamaru Hospital.

Covid case numbers in Southland Hospital had been exacerbated by outbreaks in its medical, surgical and rehabilitation wards.

Yesterday the SDHB eased visitor restrictions imposed to try to stamp out the outbreaks.

Each patient can now nominate up to two visitors for their stay in hospital, but only one can visit at any time.

Visiting hours are 2pm to 6pm and visitors are required to wear a surgical-grade mask.

Two more people in the South who have died of Covid-19 were confirmed yesterday, taking the southern toll of Covid positive deaths to 66.

Nationally, the Ministry of Health announced 6862 new community cases of Covid-19, down from 7581 on Wednesday.

In Otago and Southland 484 new cases were reported yesterday, down from 589 the previous day.

Dunedin, with 201, was the only centre to record more than 100 new cases.

There were 70 new cases in Queenstown Lakes, 59 in Invercargill, and 48 in Waitaki.

All other centres had fewer cases than the last southern update, given on Tuesday, apart from Central Otago, which rose from 27 to 32.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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