September 16, 2011

NEW ZEALAND: Mixed rooms upset elderly patients

AUCKLAND, New Zealand / AucklandNow / News / September 16, 2011

By Sarah Coddington

Older people feel uncomfortable at having to share hospital wards with the opposite sex, North Shore Age Concern's Jennie Michel says.

The elder abuse co-ordinator says it can be embarrassing for older people who are using the same bathrooms in mixed hospital wards.

Older women in particular get very anxious about holding on to some sort of dignity, she says.

"It is a problem for older people, but I understand hospitals need to utilise all the beds," the registered nurse says.

Waitemata District Health Board chief operating officer Alan Wilson says single gender rooms are a big focus at North Shore and Waitakere Hospital.  "It's now rare that patients at either hospital are in mixed gender rooms and our duty nurse managers audit regularly to ensure that this is the case," he says.

Patients are asked if they are happy to be in a mixed gender room if the hospital cannot provide a single gender room at peak times, Mr Wilson says.

"If patients say they are unhappy with a mixed gender room then we would make other arrangements for them," he says.

Mrs Michel says for many women it is easier to talk to other women when they are in hospital. "Imagine waking up and you are feeling lousy and there is a strange man sleeping in another bed on the other side of the ward in front of you," Mrs Michel says.

English stroke specialist Gerry McGonigal says many New Zealand hospitals are failing to notice and prioritise issues around patient dignity.

Dr McGonigal says these are high priority issues in the United Kingdom.

"We must start to notice the environment in which we are caring for vulnerable elders within acute hospitals," he says.

Waitemata District Health Board has a stroke unit at North Shore Hospital.

- North Harbour News
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