Albury hospital beds cater for short-stay sick

A CHANCE visit by a top health bureaucrat was the catalyst for a new short-stay unit at Albury hospital that is set to take pressure off its emergency department.

The four-bed unit was officially opened yesterday and will take patients from Monday morning.

Albury Wodonga Health clinical operations executive director Catherine O’Connell said staff were thrilled by the extra capacity.

“It makes an enormous difference to that department, which is obviously under stress every day,” she said.

Short-stay units are designed for emergency patients who require observation but for less than 24 hours.

Previously, these patients would have stayed in emergency or been admitted to in inpatient bed.

Ms O’Connell said securing the unit was very much an opportunistic event.

“We had Frances Diver — who is the executive director of the Department of Health in Victoria — come for a visit about six months ago,” she said.

“She noted the fairly cramped state of the emergency department.

“Discussions with her and the board identified we had a space, but we needed a bathroom to make sure patients were comfortable — and so she gave us the $100,000 for the bathroom.”

Ms O’Connell said the service then embarked on extensive consultation with doctors and nurses in the emergency department and intensive care.

“The unit is adjacent to the intensive care and so there was a lot of work and planning around minimising the impact of the building component on our critically ill patients,” she said.

“We’ve also added at the end of the intensive care a staff room and a storage area to accommodate the equipment that was previously in that area.”

Five new nurses and two medical positions were recruited specifically to staff the unit.

“It’s really integral to actually flow in patients from the emergency department and certainly will have on ongoing, positive impact on things like our elective surgery,” she said.

Ms O’Connell said the unit brought Albury into line with its peer hospitals in Victoria and NSW.

“We were the last service to get a short-stay unit,” she said.

Ms O’Connell said initially the main focus would be people with chest pains and cardiac patients, as well as those with abdominal presentations.

“It will also focus on people who have got a temperature, diabetics who might not be feeling very well and people with asthma who need some treatment over four to eight hours,” she said.

“It won’t be children going into that environment and it won’t be mental health patients either.”