$6m intensive care unit the most advanced in NZ

By Craig Borley

South Auckland's critically ill and their families will find the harrowing experience of intensive care greatly improved come Sunday.

Middlemore Hospital's new $6.38 million intensive care unit will receive its first patients that day.

The unit - to be officially opened by Helen Clark today - offers numerous improvements for patients, visitors and staff which will ultimately lead to better health outcomes and a significant drop in psychological trauma.

The hospital's acute care clinical director and ICU boss, Dr Catherine Simpson, said her excitement for the new unit stemmed from what it would offer her community.

"It's because the people of our community were missing out. They deserved better."

The present unit, built in 1991, was cramped, lacked modern equipment, offered too little privacy for grieving families and did not allow child patients to be separated from adults.

Times had changed, expectations were now far higher, and the unit would deliver on all those faults, Dr Simpson said.

The old cramped family room, doubling as a storage space and offering just a curtain for privacy, will be superseded by a purpose-built room where news of patients' conditions could be passed on to families with dignity.

Child patients will have their own wing of the new ICU, saving them from the traumatic sounds and sights of critically ill adults and their families.

Extra space and reclining chairs in the child-focused bed spaces will allow family members to stay at their children's bedsides.

A new shower room will allow long-stay ICU patients to be gently showered while still in their beds with their ventilators. At present, they are turned over and wiped down with a warm cloth.

The number of beds will eventually grow from seven to 18. Capacity in the first year will rise to nearly 1000.

The two pressure rooms - critically important for patients with, or vulnerable, to infections - offer huge improvements on the current spaces, Dr Simpson said.

Storage space had risen dramatically, allowing clutter-free corridors and rooms.

The new equipment was the most advanced in the country, and the new unit's location - next to theatre, the burns unit and directly above the emergency department - was also far better for staff and patients, she said.

"We're so excited, because it's going to allow us to deliver modern intensive care, in the appropriate facilities.

"The spin-offs are firstly for the patients and the families. But also, it'll make it a lot easier to get staff to want to come here and work here."

- NZ Herald

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