Week to fix hospital heat problem

A hospital source said nurses and doctors were at breaking point, working over capacity in a...
A hospital source said nurses and doctors were at breaking point, working over capacity in a hospital with no air conditioning, during the hottest summer on record in Wakatipu. Photo: ODT files

The Southern DHB has just over a week to action orders from WorkSafe to improve workplace conditions in extreme heat at Lakes District Hospital.

WorkSafe southern assessments chief inspector Darren Handforth assessed Frankton's ageing hospital on Thursday and found heat stress from working in the building was likely to be a risk to workers.

Chris Fleming
Chris Fleming

Late last month it was reported hospital staff were working in ''untenable'' conditions and feared someone would die if the DHB did not address their concerns quickly.

A hospital source said nurses and doctors were at breaking point, working over capacity in a hospital with no air conditioning, during the hottest summer on record in Wakatipu.

The DHB, however, said it had only had six complaints in two years from staff about heat, five of those in January, and that air conditioning would be addressed in the proposed redevelopment of Lakes District Hospital.

DHB chief executive Chris Fleming said the board had not studied Lakes District Hospital to see if heat, or heat stress, was a significant hazard for staff.

Nor had it used heart monitors on staff during higher metabolic load events, like administering CPR, or taken core body temperatures of staff following those events, Mr Fleming said.

Yesterday, Mr Handforth said WorkSafe found there were opportunities to ''improve the effectiveness'' of worker engagement and a need to ''review the implementation of controls'' to manage the risk to workers, and others, in conditions of extreme heat.

''An assessment also needs to be undertaken to determine if heat stress was a significant risk to workers and others at the Lakes District Hospital, and potentially other hospitals within the Southern DHB catchment.''

Mr Handforth said another improvement notice required the DHB to review the ratio of Health and Safety representatives to working groups at Lakes District Hospital.

''We will monitor the progress of the changes required to ensure SDHB is meeting their obligation to provide safe and healthy facilities for their workers and patients.''

Mr Handforth said the DHB could apply for an extension if there was ''good reason'' it could not meet the deadline of February 23.

''They are perfectly entitled to ask for an extension [but] they need to do that before the deadline.''

tracey.roxburgh@odt.co.nz

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