Otago DHB counts cost of norovirus

Dunedin and Wakari Hospitals' winter norovirus outbreak cost the Otago District Health Board at least $276,000 - and the battle is not over yet.

On Thursday, Dunedin Hospital's geriatric health ward was closed, with three patients and one staff member becoming ill with vomiting and diarrhoea.

The ward's closure came just as an orthopaedic ward reopened after a brush with the virulent and highly contagious stomach bug.

Hospital management said it would not update the situation over the long weekend unless there was a substantial change.

Wellington's Hutt Hospital was also hit by norovirus last week, with two medical wards remaining closed over the weekend.

The numbers involved in the latest skirmish pale alongside the figures for Dunedin's earlier outbreak, which officially ran from July 9 until September 2 and affected more staff than patients.

In all, 408 staff became sick with suspected norovirus compared with 162 patients. At its worst, 41 staff were sick on August 18.

These figures were reflected in the cost of the outbreak, with the biggest bill being almost $131,000 for sick leave , according to a report for the board's hospital advisory committee which meets tomorrow.

The report, details of which were outlined in today's Otago Daily Times, showed overtime cost a further $28,252.

Cleaning costs were up by $29,145 during the outbreak, and the hospital's laundry provider processed an extra 7000kg of linen, including covers for food trolleys, curtains, mops and scrubs.

Hazardous waste from the hospitals during August also increased by 2000kg.

More than 2000 hospital appointments were postponed, and the report said it would take at least six months to " return the system to equilibrium".

- NZPA

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