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Should we move to single occupancy hospital rooms?

Quiet and private, or isolated and hard to manage. These are the flipsides in the increasing argument for and against single occupancy hospital rooms.

There is a growing trend internationally for single occupancy rooms, but the dearth of literature in the area means that its benefits remain to be seen.

Advocates believe that single patient rooms increase privacy and confidentiality. They can also avoid gender bed blocking and, importantly, have the potential to better control infections.

Hugh Pennington – emeritus professor of bacteriology, University of Aberdeen – writing in the British Medical Journal, cites a Canadian study that shows (when changing intensive care wards from multi-bed to single rooms) a 40 per cent reduction in some strains of bacteria, like golden staph. Patients were also found to have 10 per cent shorter stays.

However, those against the move believe that patients are against single rooms.

Patient loneliness is a problem, but also a worry that a nurses’ overview of patients and ability to treat them in a hurry could be made more difficult.

In an Australian context, the evidence is also hard to find. Currently, the new Royal Adelaide Hospital is the only Government facility with 100 per cent single occupancy.

Dr Lynette Cusack – Associate Professor Nursing at the Adelaide Nursing School, The University of Adelaide – and her colleagues have conducted some research into the advantages and disadvantages of single rooms for patients and nurses alike.

Nursing Review spoke with Cusack to hear more.

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