Wellington ED breach: Patient stole hospital swipe card while security concerns being addressed

Health authorities are investigating a security breach at Wellington hospital, occurring at the same time security concerns at the overcrowded emergency department were being formally addressed.

Information released to the Herald under the Official Information Act revealed an incident at Wellington Regional Hospital in which a patient stole a swipe card to exit the emergency department.

The incident occurred on July 8 at 4.30am, while Capital and Coast District Health Board was officially investigating health and safety complaints – including security concerns raised by nurses.

A CCDHB spokesperson said the incident was still under investigation and they were unable to comment further.

They would not confirm whether the patient was attempting to exit the hospital, or to exit the ED into another hospital area.

Last year CCDHB confirmed investigations were under way after a member of the public allegedly used a swipe card belonging to a medical student to sneak in to watch a major surgery at Wellington hospital.

The man was able to find his way to a surgical theatre despite not being an employee or having worked at the hospital.

The July 8 incident occurred two days after a provisional improvement notice (PIN) was issued to CCDHB, formally tabling concerns of health, safety and security.

Overcrowding at Wellington ED exacerbated by an outbreak of respiratory illness over winter had seen the hospital operating at capacity for months on end, with wait times for a bed reportedly blowing out to more than 15 hours at times.

Eleven nurses resigned during this period, in the span of 10 days in July.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation Wellington representative Jo Coffey said the nurses had not felt safe due to the sheer numbers of patients in the waiting room.

A number of changes were made in response to the PIN, including changes to staffing and increasing security capacity.

The location of security cameras in the waiting room were moved, and security orderlies increased their rounds from hourly to half-hourly.

Coffey said nurses had originally asked if security could be present in the waiting room at all times, but were now satisfied with the half-hourly rounds.

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