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Waikato Hospital visiting times changed to suit patients recovery
A six-week trial around visiting times and visitor numbers starts at Waikato Hospital next week.
Waikato DHB director of nursing and midwifery Sue Hayward said the new visiting times – 11am-1.30pm and 4pm-8pm - would apply from Monday (6 September) until mid October.
The number of visitors able to visit at any time will revert to two per patient while there would also be limitations on the type of food visitors can take into the wards.
“The new times still allows families and friends six and a half hours visiting time a day – the rest of the time our doctors, nurses, health care assistants and allied health professionals need to provide top quality care and allow patients the rest and quiet they’ve told us they desperately need,” she said.
One of the biggest complaints Waikato District Health Board receives from discharged patients centres around the amount of noise in the hospital.
The 600-bed hospital on Waiora Waikato in Hamilton - Australasia’s largest hospital campus site - serves a Waikato and central North Island population of more than 860,000 people.
About 4500 staff work at the hospital and in the last financial year there were more than 90,000 inpatient discharges, 190,000 outpatient and 86,450 emergency department attendances. On any weekday, about 5300 people visit the hospital in some capacity.
“I’ve had letters from people who were patients saying visitors needed reminding there are sick people in hospital. One woman said to me that she couldn’t wait to get out of hospital to sleep and recover at home. Many of them are begging for a return to those days when visiting hours were stricter,” said Mrs Hayward.
New Zealand Nurses Organisation Waikato organiser Angela Neil said the changes would facilitate better health outcomes and a safer working environment.
“Reducing visiting hours will free up the time nurses and doctors have access to the patients and provides for longer periods of peace and quiet so needed for the recuperating patient.”
Te Puna Oranga (Maori health) acting general manager Ditre Tamatea said he supported the trial but acknowledged that it would most likely highlight a number of challenges.
“Although we are a large hospital campus there are few places for our people to go to when the wards are closed.
“We have a cafeteria – but the trial might show that we need something else particularly to accommodate the big whanau/family groups that come to our hospital from all around the central North Island, like maybe the need for dedicated whanau/ family waiting rooms.
“We have accommodation for our whanau on site at Hilda Ross House and the Whare Taurima (house of hospitality) for those needing overnight accommodation– so the options are good there,” said Mr Tamatea.
Whanau support was critical to the recovery of family members unwell in hospital and while this practise would remain, the hospital needed to strike a balance around patient needs and the requirement for staff to do what was required to treat their patients.
“Maori Health's frontline services fully expected to assist other hospital services to ensure the needs of patients and the wider whanau are catered for as best as possible,” he said.
Security manager Dean Ria said his team would help control the new visiting rules and patient numbers.
“We are not trying to minimise the importance family and friends have in the recovery process but we’re attempting to instil an increased sense of respect by visitors for the work carried out within our hospital and the need for more peace and quiet each patient deserves.”
Mrs Hayward said there would be times when the hospital would have to be flexible but those would be the exceptions, rather than the rule.
“I come back to the reason we are doing this. It’s about the patients. When walking around the hospital it is obvious that the large number of visitors and crowding creates a sense of chaos which is not conducive to a good healing environment,” she said.
The issue around limiting food was also an important one.
“Some patients are on special or restricted diets and introducing other food into that diet doesn’t help their recovery.
“There may be cultural or ethnic practices which could be factored in but that conversation is best to happen between the doctors and nurses,” she said.