Health professionals are concerned about a hospital’s air-borne monitoring system.
Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson 1:19 New Zealand’s new air-based healthcare monitoring system was created by an Air Quality Monitoring Unit (AUMU) and the New Zealand Air Ambulance Service (NZAS) to detect the health impacts of industrial activity in its facilities.AUMUs can identify pollution sources, including smoke, odour, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
It can also tell if a patient or patient carer is in danger of breathing in toxic fumes, and alert them to possible emergencies.
The AUMU is currently deployed at the Christchurch City Hospital, in a new $1.8 billion air-controlled facility that will house about 5,000 staff, including about 600 emergency and critical care staff.
Auckland University Professor of Medical Hygiene Dr Mark Smedley said the system could be dangerous if used incorrectly.
“If it’s used incorrectly, it can be a health disaster,” he said.
“In the worst case scenario it’s potentially dangerous.”
So it’s a really big concern.
“The new system is the first of its kind in New Zealand and it was first introduced in the capital city, Auckland, in the early 2000s.
In the last three years, about 1,600 people have been injured or sickened in the air-conditioned Christchurch hospital and about 30 have died, according to a recent report by the Medical Officers’ Union of New Zealand (MOU).”
It’s not going to be a good system for us to have and it’s not a good way to do medical care,” Dr Smedler said.
He said a lot of patients were already being monitored by the system, but it was not as clear cut as the government was saying.”
They have been talking about a lot more, but we haven’t seen them do a proper analysis and make sure the systems work properly.
“He said the systems had been set up in a way that allowed people to complain to the hospital, but if they had concerns, it was a matter for the hospital to investigate.”
There have been no complaints of anything to the staff at the hospital,” he says.”
The system is not going anywhere.
“Dr Smedles concern about the air monitoring system stemmed from an air quality assessment he conducted of Christchurch Hospital in 2014.
He found that a significant proportion of the hospital’s staff did not wear masks.”
I looked at all the staff who had masks, and there was a significant number of staff who didn’t wear masks,” he told Radio New Zealand.”
And I think that’s concerning.
“He found there was no way to monitor air quality, or monitor patients or patients carers.”
It would be great if we could have a full, robust monitoring system, one where we could look at what’s happening in the hospital and what’s causing these problems.
“Dr John Millington, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Canterbury, said a lack of monitoring was a concern.”
What we are seeing is the system failing and failing badly,” he tells Radio New Zealand.”
As you go further into the system the system starts to fail and fail catastrophically.
“The AEMU and NZAS both declined to comment.
Dr Millingtons report was published in the Journal of the Medical Hygienists Society of New South Wales (JMSH).
He said while he could understand the need for more robust monitoring systems, he had concerns about how it would be used.”
We are concerned that it is not being used correctly.
We are concerned because it’s an issue of privacy, and it is a matter of trust,” he explains.”
Trust is a very fragile thing, and this system is being used for a very different reason than other systems.
“He believes the system was not tested properly, and he believes it is being misused.”
You have a system that is designed to help the hospital get their money’s worth from a single centre, and that system is now being used to protect health workers from potentially serious adverse health impacts in other centres,” he writes.”
This could be a case of ‘you can’t see me, you can’t tell me, but I’m breathing in air, I have a problem, I’ve got to go’.
“He also questioned whether the system should be required to be on a regular basis, and whether the cost to the health system was justified.”
Is it worth it, if the cost is $1 billion?
What is it worth?” he asks.
He also raised concerns about the fact that the system only worked at night, and if people did not turn up to work, they were not monitored.”
Because you cannot see people, if people are not working they cannot get their data, and you cannot know what is going on.
“He also said he