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No room in the ward for elderly patient

Wednesday, 9th February, 2011

An elderly woman spent all night in the emergency department on Sunday before being admitted to the maternity ward on Monday An elderly woman spent all night in the emergency department on Sunday before being admitted to the maternity ward on Monday

by Gina Wilson

The hospital is so full that a sick, elderly woman spent all night Sunday in the emergency department only to be admitted on Monday to the maternity ward.

A spokesman for NSW Health confirmed yesterday that the patient was in what it termed a "swing" bed, which was located "opposite" the maternity ward.

The spokesman said swing beds, of which there were five, were used to accommodate female patients when other wards were full.

While the BDT was unable to speak to anyone at the hospital, the spokesman said in a written statement that swing beds were used to accommodate all types of patients, including medical, surgical and maternity.

"Patient numbers regularly fluctuate within the hospital, which is consistent with changing demand from the emergency department, surgical cases and other admissions to the hospital.

"Swing beds are not specifically allocated to a particular type of service such as surgery, medicine or maternity, but can be used flexibly to manage fluctuations in demand.

"Registered nurses and doctors provide patients in swing beds the same standard of care as patients in all beds within the Broken Hill Hospital."

The spokesman said the patient was to be moved into a designated ward yesterday when a bed was available.

The hospital has had an long battle with ward beds being taken up by elderly patients.

In July last year the-then hospital manager Rod Wyber-Hughes said it was considering enforcing a long-standing, but never used policy that would see aged care patients transferred to nearby services to free up beds.

At the time, Mr Wyber-Hughes said 11 of the city's 24 medical beds were taken up with aged care patients, including some with severe dementia. 

Many of the patients had been in the beds for more than 35 days.

He also said it was not uncommon for as many as 17 of the medical beds to be taken up with aged care patients.

Mr Wyber-Hughes also said the problem was also causing grief for patients in hospitals in Adelaide. 

As many as 17 Broken Hill patients were waiting for transfers home but could not do so as there were no spare beds locally, he said.

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