Hawke's Bay Hospital: 'Vexed issue of air-conditioning' may take 10 years for long-term fix

6:55 pm on 9 July 2020

Hawke's Bay Hospital says the best solution for air conditioning in its wards could be 10 years away, despite doctors' urgent concerns.

An illuminated corridor in the Hawke's Bay Hospital.

A corridor in the Hawke's Bay Hospital. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Yesterday, the government announced a $14.2 million package to redevelop radiology and surgery at the hospital.

However, there was no mention of new air conditioning funding.

Earlier this year, RNZ reported a lack of air conditioning was leaving staff and patients sweltering in 30C heat.

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists said it was a "shame" and people could not go home because they could not get a reliable temperature in the heat.

Executive director Sarah Dalton said while the new funding was good, it did not address the "total picture" of healthcare.

"A whole bunch of people who are going to have great diagnoses and great radiology as part of their treatment may then go on to have surgery, and their recovery - if it happened to be during the summer - would be sub-optimal, because of the horrible conditions on the wards," Dalton said.

"It begs the question as to why it's so difficult to make money available to address the vexed issue of air-conditioning - or more to the point the lack of it."

Dalton said last summer, fans and ice blocks were being handed out and tinted window film was installed to help staff and patients cope with temperatures of more than 30 degrees.

RNZ asked the Hawke's Bay District Health Board (DHB) for a phone interview, but instead staff sent through a statement.

"Hawke's Bay DHB is very pleased $14.2m of government funding, announced yesterday, will mean two long awaited projects to increase space, theatre capacity and provide more privacy for patients in theatre and radiology, can now begin," a spokesperson said.

"Alongside these projects Hawke's Bay DHB has a programme of work, that is ongoing, to implement a range of measures to improve staff and patient comfort in the warmer weeks of the year.

"These include the installation of permanent bed fans and further window tinting throughout the ward blocks, at all sites.

"While these aren't the perfect solution, feedback has shown these make things more comfortable for staff and patients in the 1950's built ward tower block."

The board admitted a new ward block was needed to provide a modern and purpose built facility.

"This is on the DHB's capital plan and long term planning for extensive refurbishment of the DHB's facilities has already begun, however this is estimated to cost at least $800m and is at least 10 years away."

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