Pressure on the Southern DHB’s cardiac surgery service should be relieved with the addition of an extra intensive care bed at Dunedin Hospital.

Southern DHB chief executive Chris Fleming said the organisation was responding after listening to patient and staff concerns about access to cardiac surgery.

He hoped the extra bed would have a significant impact on surgery waiting times.

Cardiac surgeon Dick Bunton welcomed the change. “Greater security of access to an ICU bed for our patients should reduce delays and allow us to get on with the job of helping patients.”

While the extra bed will not be exclusively for cardiac surgery, its use will be weighted towards those patients, Fleming said.

“Obviously if we had a major emergency requiring ICU beds, we’re going to look after the most acutely unwell people in the first instance.”

The bed, which will be in place once nurses have been recruited, will take the number of ICU beds at the hospital to nine.

It will differ from the other beds because it will only be staffed during the working week when the unit has both elective surgery and acute demand to meet.

It will be monitored over the next six months to determine what impact it has on cardiac surgery numbers.

Fleming acknowledged the work of the clinical teams and was encouraged by their dedication to the health and care of patients.

Clinical Director of Intensive Care Medicine Dr Craig Carr commented: “The additional resourcing announced is a useful starting point.”

 He hoped it would alleviate some of the acute pressure on the service.

Fleming said the DHB has opened discussions with Mercy Hospital about accessing additional cardiac surgery.

The hospital is currently developing a new combined intensive care/high dependency unit which is planned to open in the second half of 2018.