Maunga gets clean bill of health

Project Maunga, Taranaki Base Hospital's redevelopment project, is finished and the new wing is up and running. 

The view from Geoff Way's room is stunning. He looks over New Plymouth and out to sea.

The single room has an ensuite and if Way can't sleep he can always watch TV.

It's like a five-star hotel, he says.

But it's not. Way is a patient in the new part of Taranaki Base Hospital.

He has spent time in the old hospital and at Barrett St before that and says the new wing is in a class of its own.

"There's no comparison."

It even beats a hospital in San Diego, where Way ended up while on holiday a few years ago, and that charged his insurance company $5000 a day. "I was in the other (hospital) wing in February when it first opened up and I was overlooking the helicopter pad and I thought that was quite neat. But this (view) is absolutely magnificent."

It lifts his spirits, he said.

It's meant to. All the new rooms have a view, big windows and are light and airy. Beds are built so they tilt towards the windows. The design takes into account evidence that shows patients who have sunlight and nice surroundings recover a lot quicker.

The new hospital, officially opened a month ago, cost $80 million.

Named Project Maunga, the redevelopment was supposed to be the first of a three-stage upgrade that included a revamped maternity ward, neonatal and emergency department facilities, new outpatients services, laboratory and administration.

The first stage was altered slightly, Taranaki District Health Board chief nursing adviser Rosemary Clements says.

"We looked at the three-stage process end on end, but it became apparent that we wouldn't be able to commence stage two at the time we wanted, so we put pediatrics in phase one."

The other stages haven't been approved yet, no detailed business cases have been written and due to financial constraints probably won't be before the end of the decade. The finished redevelopment has future-proofed the hospital for a number of years, because there is capacity to expand, Clements says.

Construction on Project Maunga started in 2011 after user groups from all areas of the hospital had identified their needs and put forward their wish lists. The wishes were granted where possible within the budget.

The next step was to develop a functional brief, project manager Base Hospital redevelopment Steve Berendsen says.

"Which essentially outlined what our expectations were."

After the floor plan was developed, they went room by room deciding how big it should be, what equipment was needed, what gas lines had to be fed into it.

"And it just kind of evolved like that."

They looked at a lot of hospitals in New Zealand and Australia, Berendsen says.

"In the end this was a design that works well and efficiently and we still thinks it works as well, if not better, than anything we've seen. And it's better than most."

And some of the innovations in the new hospital are better than most. In good Kiwi style, if they couldn't buy what they wanted, they designed it themselves, such as the cows (computers on wheels) used by nurses.

"You can buy them, but they cost about $6000 and are too heavy to manoeuvre around the ward. We decided we wanted something lightweight, manoeuvrable, and with a drawer," Berendsen says.

Electronic white boards and dispensers for gloves and gowns were also designed in-house.

Clinical nurse manager medicine Janet Gibson jokes they should have patented the dispensers because other hospitals were now interested in the design.

"But we don't mind sharing."

Perhaps the most popular innovation is the white board, which was developed by clinical and IT staff, Gibson says.

"This was a Waikato innovation. We used their basic model and turned it into something really good."

All patient information is recorded and easily seen on the colour-coded screen, including times scheduled for tests, dates of discharge, whether patients are at risk of having a fall. Nurses can see at a glance which patients are under their care.

Information can be added or deleted at the touch of screen.

Surgeons also use the white board. When they do their ward rounds they check where their patients are and see if anything has happened overnight, consultant surgeon Falah Haddawi says.

Operating theatres used to be internal rooms, but now are light and sunny. "The theatres are well-equipped. There are a lot of high technology things in the theatres."

Though the number of theatres has only increased from four to six, there has been a 50 per cent increase in capacity, Haddawi says. "We have had several incidents in the past where we couldn't carry on with surgery because the recovery rooms were filled up with patients. That's not happening any more."

And there are now 23 day beds where there used to be eight, which has resulted in an increase in the number of endoscopies performed. The hospital also has five new 30-bed wards.

Each ward has 14 single rooms and four rooms with four beds.

Every single room has an ensuite and the four-bed rooms have two toilets.

In the medical ward there are 26 toilets for up to 30 people, Gibson says.

Some of the rooms are negative pressure rooms for people with an infection who need to be in isolation.

"If someone comes in with TB they will be put in a specific room that prevents contamination. We didn't have that before."

When patients ring their bells, they go to a nurses' phone instead of ringing throughout the ward, she says.

"It's a silent ward. There's a calmness. Patients don't get woken up."

And obese patients can now be safely moved in a hoist that is operated by finger-tip control.

The hoists have already been used a number of times.

The new building also includes a 30-bed older people's health and rehabilitation inpatient ward and a new sterile service department.

The old building was built in the 1970s, was grotty, things broke, and the paint was peeling. And it was either too hot or two cold, Gibson says.

One criticism of the new hospital is the windows don't open and the rooms get too hot.

Windows don't open because of the air conditioning, she says.

"We have to pull the blinds down because the sun comes in."

In his room Way has moved from a chair to his bed, because it is too hot sitting on the seat by the window, but he doesn't want to shut out the view.

"At first I thought the rooms were too big, but when you've got what I've got, like the dialysis machine and then when they take your blood pressure they need the area to work in. It makes their job easier and I daresay things get done quicker."

And it's much easier to sleep in a room on his own, without all the old blokes coughing, he says.

"It's got all the bells and whistles that they need."

Taranaki Daily News