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The new ICU negative pressure room. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

Waikato Hospital’s Critical Care service expanding

Waikato Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) opened its new expansion today on Wednesday.

The upgrade added four permanent isolation rooms and two negative pressure rooms creating a fit-for-purpose space to treat COVID-19 and other infectious patients.

It grows the ICU from 16 beds to a 22 bed unit with 10 isolation spaces and four negative pressure rooms.

The additional spaces utilised an area which had been set aside for future expansion when Critical Care was opened in 2013.

To staff this expansion, 40 more staff are being recruited including doctors, nurses, food and nutrition experts, healthcare assistants and allied health staff. Waikato Hospital covers all areas of critical care including paediatrics and maternity.

Michelle Sutherland, Te Whatu Ora Interim Lead – Hospital and Specialist Services for Waikato says this is an important advancement for critical care in the Waikato.

“The new area provides the team with an improved environment for providing expert care to our infectious patients, and there is clear visibility of each room centrally for staff to see what is happening.

“There are large windows surrounding the unit and the natural light and space will make for a more positive experience for patients and whānau.

“Being able to isolate infectious patients in a critical care setting is very important and reduces the likelihood of infection spread to staff, visitors and patients.”

The experience of COVID-19 highlighted the need for greater capacity to meet the demand of high patient flow levels. These modifications are part of future planning for pandemics like COVID-19 or RSV outbreaks.

In response to COVID-19 in 2020, a temporary separation was provided to create extra capacity in ICU by using aluminium framing and plastic sheeting to reduce the risk of infection to patients.

Critical Care encompasses ICU and the High Dependency Unit (HDU). ICU provides sophisticated care and life support to critically unwell or injured patients. It caters for patients undergoing cardiac surgery, paediatric (child) and general adult intensive care. HDU is a 12-bed unit with one isolation space and one negative pressure room.