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Plan to enlarge Acute Medical Assessment Unit

Plan to enlarge Acute Medical Assessment Unit and move Outpatients Department

The Canterbury Health System is working towards having most General Medicine services back to one site after they were split between The Princess Margaret Hospital and Christchurch Hospital following the February 22 earthquake.

The Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) plans to move the Parkside Outpatients Department to a new location on St Asaph Street, away from the main hospital and adjacent to the public car park building, allowing expansion of the Acute Medical Assessment Unit from 25 to 36 beds.

CDHB chief executive David Meates says the February 22 earthquake resulted in the closure of General Medical wards to inpatients in levels four and five of Riverside Block at Christchurch Hospital.

"While these wards have been temporarily moved to The Princess Margaret Hospital, it is not clinically acceptable to have General Medicine services split across two sites and we are still operating with 35 fewer beds overall this winter," Mr Meates says.

"CDHB has developed an Earthquake Recovery Plan, which addresses the damage done to the health infrastructure and introduces a number of new ways of working with an emphasis on more services being provided in the community and in people's homes where appropriate."

Mr Meates says an enlarged and enhanced Acute Medical Assessment Unit will lead to a reduced demand for ward beds and enable most of the fragmented services to be consolidated on the Christchurch Hospital site.

The existing Acute Medical Assessment Unit, established five years ago, has met and exceeded its initial objectives including reduced time spent in the Emergency Department (ED), earlier diagnosis and commencement of treatment resulting in shorter length of stay, improved staff satisfaction and improved medical team productivity, he says.

Further gains from an enlarged Acute Medical Assessment Unit include moving to a full seven day service with extended consultant and allied health input and accepting direct admissions from General Practice, therefore bypassing ED.

"This will have the dual benefits of reducing pressure on ED and ensuring patients are assessed in the correct environment sooner with increased opportunities to go home earlier," Mr Meates says.

The impact of the earthquakes has caused an estimated $70 million repairs and building work including damage to more than 7500 hospital rooms.

"The next 18 months is going to be challenging with repairs creating significant disruptions in many areas," Mr Meates says.

The Plan:

* The site for the enlarged Acute Medical Assessment Unit is the ground floor of Christchurch Hospital's Parkside West building. It is currently occupied by the Parkside Outpatients Department. The Acute Medical Assessment Unit will move from its existing site of Level One in Riverside block to this site.

* The existing Acute Medical Assessment Unit will revert to a normal General Medicine ward and two of the three temporary wards at The Princess Margaret Hospital will be progressively closed, leaving one ward that will have a planned focus on rehabilitation of stroke patients.

* The estimated cost of constructing a larger Acute Medical Assessment Unit is $7 million, with the additional operating costs to be partially offset by savings from the staged closure of the beds at The Princess Margaret Hospital.

* Other benefits include improved patient safety and satisfaction and improved staff morale, leading to improved recruitment and retention.

* The changes will mean 23 fewer General Medicine beds than available pre-earthquake.

* Parkside Outpatients will be relocated to a building on the St Asaph Street site that currently houses the Stores Department at an estimated cost of about $8.5 million.


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