Wards merged as hospital prepares for covid

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Ashburton Hospital is preparing for staff shortages.

Two wards at Ashburton Hospital have been merged in preparedness for staff shortages due to covid.

It is one of many changes made by the Canterbury District Health Board across its rural services to manage potential staffing shortages.

Canterbury District Health Board Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) incident controller Dr Helen Skinner said the merger of Wards One and Two was a temporary measure being used only for the duration of the Omicron outbreak peak.

Merging the two wards allows us to optimise staff availability across the wards, she said.

‘‘Our ECC made this decision to respond to staffing shortages across the system. This allows us build resilience into our resourcing to minimise any impacts a significant Omicron outbreak could have on our ability to deliver care.’’

Ashburton Hospital provides a range of inpatient, day patient, outpatient and community based health service. It has 74 beds.

Its rural health services employs around 550 full time and part time staff, which includes a clinical workforce in medicine, surgery and gynaecology, supported by nursing and allied health professionals with extensive experience in a wide range of clinical situations.

In other rural areas the district health board has temporarily closed four of its rural facilities and moved 23 residents to other private hospitals due to rapidly increasing number of community cases.

The facilities are Waikari, Darfield, Oxford and Ellesmere hospitals, which offer a range of age-related residential care including beds for convalescing post surgery, acute admissions and palliative care.

Covid-19 ECC Incident Controller for the Canterbury Health System’s Omicron response, Tracey Maisey, said the decision had been made now due to ability to staff these facilities through the peak of the Omicron outbreak as staffing resources become strained.

“One of our main concerns was that during the outbreak we will not be able to sustain safe staffing levels with appropriately trained staff in these facilities, and this was a major risk that could have a serious adverse impact on our residents.

“We are therefore moving with urgency to assess each patient and connect with residents’ families or next of kin to decide on a suitable alternative facility for each resident. We take our responsibility for their care very seriously and will do everything we can to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

“We appreciate that relocating older people is disruptive and may be upsetting for them. However, we need to ensure that they are living somewhere that is well set up and has the staff resources to make sure they will be well looked after during the pandemic, Ms Maisey says.

It was envisaged residents should be back in their hospital facilities within six weeks of the Omicron outbreak’s peak, she said.