Natalie moved from the UK to New Zealand in 2008 as a house surgeon. She has completed her training to date in the Wellington region and is an advanced trainee in adult medicine and geriatric medicine at Hutt Hospital.
Mixed-Gender Accommodation in Wellington Hospital: Prevalence, Trend over Time and Vulnerability of the Elderly
To determine the prevalence of mixed-gender accommodation or “mixed bedding” on medical and surgical wards at Wellington Public Hospital, New Zealand between 2011 and 2018. To determine whether the prevalence is increasing with time and whether older adults are disproportionally affected.
Data was obtained retrospectively from the electronic medical records representing admissions to Wellington hospital between 2011 and 2018 over eight different medical and surgical wards. Mixed bedding was defined as male and females sharing a bay. A bay was defined as any beds in a space not separated by a wall and door. An admission was said to have been affected if the patient had spent at least one night of their admission in a bay with a patient of the opposite gender.
There were 141,631 admissions over the study period, of which 47% were affected by mixed-gender accommodation. Mixed bedding was more prevelant in older age groups. 62% of admissions relating to patients aged 85 or older were affected by mixed bedding compared to 50% of those aged 65-84, 42% of those aged 40-64 and 38% of those under 40. The prevalence is rising overall with 36% of patients affected in 2011 compared to 52% in 2018.
This data demonstrates that mixed bedding is common, is increasing over time and, despite greater physical and cognitive vulnerability disproportionately affects the elderly. We believe this practice is unnecessary, violates dignity and may place female patients in situations where their personal safety is compromised. Mixed bedding has been shown to be an affront to patient’s dignity. In the UK, public hospitals are now required to routinely report their rates of mixed bedding as a key performance indicator. Anecdotally, we believe this practice is commonplace throughout New Zealand hospitals and possibly other countries with similar pressures on their public health systems. We urge hospital management and government to act urgently to eliminate this practice.