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Waikato DHB opens a new hospital ward to meet growth in demand

Waikato District Health Board is working on a number of initiatives at Waikato Hospital to increase bed capacity, enhance theatre usage and improve patient flow to cope with increased demand for its services.

Like many other hospitals around the country, Waikato Hospital has seen a big increase in patients at its Emergency Department over the last few months and the flow on effect of demand for beds in the hospital. On one day this month the hospital saw 297 patients present at ED – the most it had seen this year and 80 more than usual.

The new initiatives include:

  • The opening of a 27-bed ward (OPR5) on L1 of the Older Persons and Rehabilitation building. It will cater for geriatric medical and ortho-rehab patients.
  • Investing $4.4 million in extra doctors and nurses in the Emergency Department. This includes five senior doctors, seven junior doctors, and 12 nurses. Several of these staff have already been recruited.
  • A Patient Flow Programme aimed to improve the flow of patients through Waikato Hospital and get patients admitted to wards quickly for treatment. This includes the SAFER initiative to be launched in September which involves patients having an estimated date of discharge and for all paperwork to be ready the day before to prevent unnecessary delays.
  • Increased nursing staff for two general surgery wards at a cost of $844,000.
  • Work underway to improve acute theatre capacity meaning more patients that need acute surgery will be treated sooner and able to return home earlier. This will release more beds for the care of other urgent and acute patients and avoid elective surgery being deferred.
  • Increasing the use of rural hospitals for relocating inpatients closer to their home address to improve patient flow across the Waikato.
  • Increasing the size of the short stay area in the Emergency Department to add an extra five seats.

Executive Director of Waikato Hospital Services Brett Paradine said: “When the Older Persons and Rehabilitation building was opened in 2013, OPR5 was built as a ‘future capacity ward’ for when demand increased for beds due to the aging population. We have reached that point.

“We are currently recruiting nurses, doctors, health care assistants and allied health staff and expect to have the ward staffed, equipped and ready to accept patients by the first week in September. The ward will cost $4m a year to run.”

Mr Paradine added: “The number of people turning up to Waikato Hospital ED has increased 20 per cent over the last five years. Patients are also spending longer in the hospital, which is putting more pressure on the available hospital beds.”

Earlier this month St John Ambulance reported that it had seen a 9 per cent increase in 111 emergency calls for ambulances in the Waikato this June compared to the same period last year. The Waikato Hospital ED saw a 16 per cent increase in attendances in June this year compared to June 2016, which equates to more than 1,000 additional attendances in the month. That significant increase is well beyond the previous predictions.

Waikato Hospital has already implemented an overflow bed policy which identified additional beds on 24 wards, in family rooms or treatment rooms, throughout the hospital. These are being used for patients who are waiting for discharge in times of high bed occupancy, when inpatients in the Emergency Department experience delays moving into a specialty ward bed.

Mr Paradine said: “While we are investing substantial sums in increasing the hospital’s capacity it is not going to completely solve the demand issue which is growing day by day and we need to work closely with our partners in primary care to help us manage this demand.

“While the majority of patients coming to our Emergency Department need to be there, I’d like to remind people to try and save the ED for emergencies and either see their own GP first, attend an Accident and Medical Centre.”

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