St Vincent’s Hospital has moved to reassure the community that while the existing HIV ward will be sold, services and staff expertise is being retained, funding is not being cut, and community consultation will resume.
Six of the 10 government-funded beds at 8 North ward are being relocated as of 6 December, sharing with bone marrow transplants and other forms of blood-borne viruses. Six specialist HIV nurses from the old ward will join them at 9 South.
Funds from the four closed beds will go to HIV outpatient services such as ambulatory and community-based care, which are in greater demand since the advent of anti-retroviral therapy.
Remaining specialist HIV staff have been given a choice of where to relocate, some opting for PEP and HIV work in the emergency ward.
The hospital’s executive director Kerry Stubbs met with PLWHA and ACON leaders yesterday to explain the reconfiguration after furious staff were told only that the ward would be sold to the Navy, with patients and staff dispersed over Christmas.
“We thought we were looking down the barrel of a really stressing situation for people with HIV and needing patient services,” ACON CEO Stevie Clayton said.
“But the situation as explained to us [now] should lead to better services for HIV positive people.”
PLWHA CEO Rob Lake was also reassured by the guarantee funding was not being cut. While there was a decline in the need for inpatient care and a growing demand for care in people’s homes, he said there would continue to be a need for dedicated HIV beds as the positive community ages.
“Sometimes it is hard to know if a condition is HIV related or not, for those sort of people that’s what these beds are about. But it blurs it because people end up all over the place,” Lake said.
“That’s the thing about 8 North, there’s a culture around the ward that people are comfortable with. People went there because they wanted to work there.”
Lake said it would take time to develop that culture in the new ward, but there would be an opportunity for more nursing staff to gain HIV expertise from the new mix.
“Over the years the HIV consultative committee died away, which was a place for people like PLWHA, ACON and GPs to meet with the hospital and talk about the range of HIV services – whether it’s the pharmacy, mental health, community health or inpatient.”
Hospital spokesman David Faktor said the community had indicated a need for more formal consultation, so the committee would resume regular meetings next year.
The hospital receives $10 million in government funding for HIV services.
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