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High bed use opens up lively discussion


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An increase in the number of beds in Wairarapa Hospital’s medical surgical ward was pondered at this week’s Wairarapa District Health Board meeting.

Board members were viewing a graph on patients’ length of stay in the 38-bed ward when the high bed usage came up.

Fiona Samuel said the information board members had been presented with lined up with the bed utilisation rates in the ward, which had been sitting at 97 per cent for the year.

The board discussed ways that the percentage of beds being used could be brought down with Rick Long suggesting that the answer could be one the DHB had known for a while.

“The hospital, and particularly the medical surgical ward, need enlarging. There’s no question that the population of Wairarapa has increased markedly, so that’s going to put pressure on a 94-bed hospital.”

Interim CEO Craig Climo wasn’t sure expansion was the answer.

“There’s also changes we can make to how the hospital works. We’re also investing significantly in out-of-hospital activity and there should be some payback. Just when that occurs, the extent of it we’re not sure.

“What we can’t continue to do as a DHB, or a country, is grow hospitals in response to the burden of long-term illnesses and I’d suggest hospitals aren’t the best place to treat these things.”

Climo said the fundamental challenge a DHB faced was maintaining hospital services in the face of an increased burden, while investing for change.

Alan Shirley shared Long’s concerns and thought the DHB should investigate how the population of Wairarapa had changed.

“I understand the theory of trying to avoid hospital admissions … but you’ll never do hip and knee replacements in the community. When people get sick, even for a short time, they have to go somewhere.

“Becoming totally focused on community care I think has a danger of not providing what is required.”

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