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Southern DHB Te Puna Wai Ora, Southern Critical Care - Dunedin Hospital

Public Service, Intensive Care


Te Puna Wai Ora - Southern Critical Care has the capability and resources to deliver long term life support to critically ill patients. It acts as a tertiary (specialised) referral service for other health care providers in Otago and Southland.
What is Critical Care?
Critical care is the specialist care given to patients with acute (sudden), potentially reversible, life-threatening diseases. This may include patients who have life-threatening conditions such as a major accident, a severe infection or those recovering from a major operation. Critical care units may be  divided into two areas; the Critical Care Unit where the sickest patients are cared for, and the High Dependency Unit (HDU) where patients who are not well enough to return to general wards are treated. In some hospitals coronary care patients and other high care areas may be combined within a critical care area.
Critical Care is staffed by a team of highly experienced and professional doctors and nurses who are supported by other allied healthcare professionals. Specialist doctors trained to look after very ill patients staff the ICU. Most patients requiring critical care treatment have a nurse allocated to look after them individually.  High Dependency Unit patients may be cared for by a nurse who is also looking after other patients in the HDU. The Critical Care Unit and HDU also have physiotherapists, dietitians, pharmacists and many other healthcare professionals to help care for these very ill people.
What to expect
Much of the value of the Critical Care Unit comes the careful monitoring of the progress of a disease and the body’s response to complex treatments. This allows timely adjustment of such treatments. In order to achieve this, many investigations and monitoring processes will occur. It may be necessary at times to perform complex procedures in the Critical Care Unit, which may be time-consuming and require the Unit to be closed to visitors. 
Besides blood tests (see below), monitoring of other body functions is also commonplace. Heart rate, arterial blood pressure, central venous pressure, oxygen saturation and urine output monitoring are routine. Specific conditions may require other investigations. The changes are monitored and therapy adjusted as a result of the monitoring.


Referral Expectations

Patients are rarely admitted directly to the Critical Care Unit. Patients presenting to hospital are usually admitted via the Emergency Department or other area where they are first stabilised.  Patients whose condition gets worse on the ward, in the operating theatre or presenting from another hospital may be transferred to Critical Care.

Procedures / Treatments

  • Blood Tests

    In the Critical Care Unit blood tests are usually done at least once a day.… More

  • Cardiovascular Problems

    Patients with critical illness commonly develop problems with their hearts and circulation.… More

  • Respiratory Problems

    Respiratory failure occurs when the respiratory system is no longer able to provide enough oxygen requirements or remove enough carbon dioxide from the body.… More

  • Nasogastric Tube

    A nasogastric tube is often inserted at the same time as the endotracheal tube.… More

  • Kidney Problems

    Kidney (or renal) failure is when a patient’s kidneys are unable to remove wastes and excess fluid from the blood.… More

Visiting Hours

Update: COVID19

No visiting allowed at present

The global pandemic outbreak of the Covid-19 virus has affected many. Despite efforts to contain the virus and slow its spread, over four hundred thousand people have been infected and tens of thousands of people have died. People in their 20s have died as well as people older than this.

Many more of us will become unwell, some seriously. Those who become seriously unwell will need treatment in hospital. The sickest may require treatments that can only be provided in an intensive care unit or critical care unit (ICU) - treatments like being attached to a breathing machine when they are too sick to breathe for themselves.

The experience of other countries like New Zealand where the pandemic is more advanced shows us that we could rapidly face a situation where the number of people needing ICU treatment is so high that New Zealand will not have enough beds, nurses and doctors to look after everyone and some people will die who might otherwise have been saved. This is why it is so important to stop Covid spreading and to observe the current four-week lock down.

In order to prevent further spread of infection in New Zealand, we have all been asked to self-isolate at home. This stops people who have Covid spreading it to others and keeps everyone safe. You can have Covid and not have symptoms meaning, even although you feel well, you are spreading it to others. Visitors to the intensive care unit present a risk to the patients and the staff there and so, unless in exceptional circumstances, visitors are not currently allowed to come into the Intensive Care Unit. Visiting can be arranged by Skype or FaceTime for short periods during the day and you can still speak to your loved one’s nurse and doctor at least once per day.

We are very sorry that we cannot have visitors to the Intensive Care Unit at the present time. We promise to care for your whānau and loved ones and to pass on messages to them. We hope you understand that until the Covid crisis is over, it is vitally important everyone who has been in the community stays away from the patients and staff in the unit to keep everyone safe.


Contact Details

Dunedin Hospital

Dunedin - South Otago

201 Great King St

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Street Address

201 Great King St

Postal Address

Private Bag 1921
Dunedin 9054

This page was last updated at 3:47PM on September 8, 2021. This information is reviewed and edited by Southern DHB Te Puna Wai Ora, Southern Critical Care - Dunedin Hospital.