Cardiac unit 'vital'
As the future of Waitakere Hospital's Coronary Care Unit becomes uncertain, it's feared that West Auckland patients won't have prompt access to cardiac care.
Waitemata District Health Board (WDHB) is exploring proposals to move the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) from Waitakere Hospital to North Shore Hospital.
Conditions and symptoms of patients in the CCU include heart attacks, chest pains, cardiac failure, septic heart valves and rheumatic fever.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) fears the move will see the west's six specialised inpatient cardiology beds disestablished.
There's capacity for nurses in the Waitakere CCU to monitor a further 15 patients in the wards through a system that transfers heart rhythm onto monitors in the unit.
Over 3000 heart patients were monitored across the hospital wards in 2012.
The NZNO understands the health board is required to save $8.5 million across its services and cardiology services are expected to make substantial savings.
The WDHB's cardiology service budget was $20 million in the last financial year.
Statistics released by a 2012 West Auckland integrated care project show the admission rates for cardio vascular disease and diabetes as primary diagnoses was proportionately higher for West Auckland adults than the total WDHB admission.
NZNO delegate Gordon Love says heart disease cases will continue to increase alongside a rise in diabetes and obesity rates. "We should be further building up cardiology in all hospitals, not reducing it.
"It's vital West Aucklanders have a CCU that's easily accessible.
"It will encourage them to notify emergency services with potential cardiac problems if they know there is a service they can utilise at Waitakere Hospital," he says.
Mr Love says before Waitakere Hospital's emergency department opened under 24-hour care, patients would delay reporting symptoms.
"There's been cases where patients have developed chest pains at midnight, they didn't ring an ambulance because they knew it would take them to the North Shore.
"They wanted to come to Waitakere because that's where they feel comfortable so they put off ringing the ambulance until later in the morning," says Mr Love.
Waitemata health board's manager for medicine and older people's health Debbie Eastwood says the board is reviewing the time it takes for people with a serious heart condition to access acute cardiac catheter labs.
"A delay in being treated in a catheter lab could mean additional harm so we need to look at ways of speeding up that process.
"We can assure the people of the west that comprehensive cardiology services will stay at Waitakere Hospital," she says.
But Mr Love is not convinced.
More than 500 patients were monitored in the CCU in 2012 and he says the demand is growing.
"How is North Shore Hospital going to accommodate a patient increase?" Mr Love asks.
"If we park all the patients at North Shore it's not going to make anything happen any quicker but will mean West Auckland patients are further away from their families who will have to travel to support them.
"There are deep pockets of poverty out west and extra travel and petrol prices are a major stress," he says.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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