Dunedin Hospital 'over capacity', surgeries on hold

by Kim Bowden - Jun 08, 2022

Dunedin Hospital is "over capacity" and has cancelled planned surgeries just hours after restrictions on visitors had been lifted after almost a week of keeping its doors closed to protect vulnerable patients from Covid-19.

In a statement to media this afternoon, the Southern District Health Board says the hospital has set in motion a plan of action because it has reached a "critical level" of occupancy.

"Sustained pressure on our health care system, together with high numbers of emergency department presentations, Covid-19, staff fatigue and illness has increased the challenges for our already busy hospital."

All planned surgeries for the day have been deferred, the statement says.

The statement comes within hours of visitor restrictions having been loosened.

Since Thursday, visitors had been turned away from the hospital to protect vulnerable patients from Covid-19.

At 2pm, normal visiting hours had resumed, although visitor numbers remain controlled at two per patient, and the wearing of a surgical mask is a requirement.

SDHB chief operating officer Hamish Brown says healthcare staff are doing their "very best" to meet demand.

"We understand deferring surgery will be upsetting for our patients and we are committed to ensuring these surgeries are re-booked quickly.

"Our team are focussing on making sure patient flow, including admissions and discharges are timely, and that patient safety is our priority.

We appreciate our community supporting our health care team so we can care for you.”

Covid-19 and the flu are circulating, and the seven-day rolling average of Covid-19 cases is steady in the Southern region, he says.

"Our health advice remains the same.

"Being up to date with Covid-19 vaccinations remains one of the best defences against Covid-19.

"Stay home if you’re unwell, get tested if you’re symptomatic, wash and dry your hands, cover coughs and sneezes, and wear a mask in indoor public settings – a good rule of thumb is to always wear a mask indoors when not at home."

People with health concerns can check in with Healthline or their GP for any non-urgent concerns, he says.

"Our emergency department is under pressure and there is a wait for non-urgent presentations.

"Please keep the Emergency Department for emergencies.

"All our staff have been working extremely hard in the last few months and continue to do so to alleviate this pressure.

"We thank them for their dedication to Dunedin Hospital and their community."

Last week, a top doctor warned hospitals are facing a "perfect storm" of winter illness and Covid-19 cases.

Australasian College of Emergency Medicine spokesperson Dr John Bonning told RNZ hospitals in general are full and emergency departments overflowing.

"We've kind of got a perfect storm of the beginning of winter, winter ailments, respiratory viruses that we have not been exposed to for a couple of years, the tail-end of Covid, although it's a pretty wicked tail in terms of number of cases."


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