New hospital’s many failings

Tradesmen are thick on the ground at Bathurst Base Hospital attempting to rectify design and equipment defects, that have plagued staff and patients since the facility opened in late January.

A NSWNA inspection of the hospital revealed a long list of serious defects. Examples include:

  • The Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit are too small and need structural changes. The resuscitation room in ED only fits one bed, and even that has to go in the wrong way for staff to access the head of the patient.
  • Occupants of the Mental Health Unit can easily access climbable drainpipes to the roof, as well as a courtyard wall leading to a 20-metre drop. Patients in the secure assessment room can potentially access the ED via an unlocked door. The secure assessment room is at the opposite end of the unit to the seclusion room and at the end of a supposedly staff-only corridor.
  • The Paediatric Unit had easy access to the roof (a push button door release about 1.2 metres off the ground), which has a low-level wall and a three-storey drop. The pathway from the door across the roof leads directly to a fire escape that is not locked or alarmed. NSWNA branch secretary Cheryl O’Brien has reported that the push-button operation has been replaced with a swipe card system.
  • The maternity assessment room doorway is too narrow for trolleys. During commissioning of the room the bed had to be turned on its side to be put in place.
  • Duress alarms are a basic type that only sends a signal to security officers while failing to alert other staff that an incident is occurring nearby. ‘If an incident happens out of earshot of other staff, or if a person has been knocked unconscious so there’s no noise involved, other staff in the same unit won’t know that a colleague is in trouble,’ says Trish Butrej, NSWNA OH&S coordinator. ‘Some staff do have alarms with pagers but the signal is a code – it doesn’t clearly state the location of the incident.’
  • The methadone unit is a ‘complete nightmare and will have to be refurbished. It’s way too small, there’s no proper storage space, no personal duress alarms and you can’t view the waiting room from the dosing area,’ Trish said.
  • Surgical ward and medical ward call bells can not be heard once staff are 10 to 15 metres from the desk, as speakers and enunciators are only located at the desk.
  • Thousands of files are stored in the medical gases plant room, where they would fuel any fire.
  • The only access to the mortuary is via the car park, but ambulances can’t fit under the car park entrance or the mortuary roller door. The car park entrance is also too low for the patient transport bus, which is forced to park in the ambulance bay.
  • The stores department did not deliver boxes to wards. Management had instead organised wardspersons to deliver stores. This removed them from their normal role of transporting patients and assisting nurses, which severely impacted on nurses’ workloads. Nurses and ward clerks had to go down to the dock, sort through supplies to find their orders, and deliver them to the ward. Cheryl O’Brien said the absence of wardsperson meant delays in patients being transported for X-rays, CT scanning etc. She said it appeared stores staff had now started delivering to wards.
  • Staff were not given keys to the clean utility rooms where drugs are stored, forcing them to leave doors unlocked.
  • Monitoring by the Department of Environment and Climate Change revealed excessive noise from the air conditioning units. The Department gave the Greater Western Area Health Service a fortnight to come up with a solution.