26 Nov 2020

Hawke's Bay Hospital back to its heated problem

11:06 am on 26 November 2020

Doctors are urging Hawke's Bay Hospital in Hastings to take action to avoid another sweltering summer due to no air conditioning.

An illuminated corridor in the Hawke's Bay Hospital.

A corridor in Hawke's Bay Hospital, where doctors say temperatures reached 25C inside the wards recently. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Doctors told the Resident Doctors' Association (RDA) that temperatures reached 25C inside the wards a couple weekends ago.

The lack of air conditioning has been a contentious issue over the last couple of years.

In previous years, staff and patients were given iceblocks and fans, but this did not make a significant difference.

RDA general secretary Deborah Powell told RNZ iceblocks were "a bit of a band aid on a hemorrhage".

"These places are getting really hot, and an ice block just doesn't quite cut the mustard.

'In 2019, we saw fans being deployed, a few portable air conditioning units, but it really didn't do the deal, it still didn't get on top of what was a very hot work environment. So by the end of that summer, we said enough's enough and we certainly put Hawke's Bay on notice - that we're not going to go through another summer like this."

Last Monday, Powell contacted the DHB to ask what they were doing this year.

"We've asked for a full catalogue of what they've done, we've also asked for what monitoring is in place so that we can ensure that the temperatures don't start soaring again and also what escalation plans they have, in case what they have done isn't sufficient and the temperatures start rising again so that's with the DHB at the moment so we're looking forward to their response to that."

The DHB told RNZ temperatures are monitored throughout the day through sensors in a range of rooms on each of the ward levels.

In a statement, chief operations officer Chris Ash said "a lot of work" had been done to address the heat in the wards.

"[We] have completed installing window tinting on all the north facing windows of the ward block to help reduce the temperature inside the building. Fans are also available for every patient area to help with air flow and nurses now also have available new uniforms made of lightweight breathable fabric.

"The DHB acknowledges the wards get very hot in the summer, which is unpleasant for both patients and staff, however the age of the building, makes installing air-conditioning difficult and expensive. The estimated cost to install air-conditioning in the ward block is $7 million.

"Air-conditioning is on the DHB's infrastructure building plan but no-date has been set as it is being considered in the wider context of a new hospital build or extensive refurbishment of the ward block."

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