The John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle is the city's largest and newest hospital. It not only serves the people of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, but is also the hospital many people from the north coast and north-western NSW go to when they have a complicated condition.
It has no air-conditioning.
Yes - you read that right. "The John", as it is unaffectionately known, is a hothouse in summer. While the reception area has its own air conditioning system, the wards do not. That means that sick people, nurses and doctors often have to live in temperatures of 30 degrees or more quite often during summer. Some wards do have their own air conditioning system, but most do not.
It is absolutely incredible in this day and age that a major hospital does not have something so basic as air conditioning. Moreover, it is also incredible that a modern hospital should have no air conditioning.
There are so many design flaws at the John that it must represent the worst piece of central planning ever by publically funded health services. It's almost enough - almost - to prove the belief that government cannot do anything with any sort of efficiency.
Take parking at the hospital. Since Newcastle does not have a 24-hour medical centre anywhere in the city, sick people are often forced to go to hospital emergency departments. A few months ago I was concerned that I had developed a chest infection and so off I went - in the early evening - to the John to see a doctor. I entered the parking area, got myself a ticket and then drove around for 5-10 minutes looking for a space. Do you think I could find one? Then I had the frustration of paying a $4 parking fee on my way out when I decided to go to the Martyr emergency department instead (which has just as impossible to enter). Things are so bad with parking that people are hired to move cars in the staff parking area so that Nurses and Doctors can actually put their cars somewhere.
There's also only one road in and one road out - and the road is located at a major intersection. If there is a traffic accident at that section, then the hospital is temporarily cut off from the rest of Newcastle.
The John is designed as a long three-story building. Between floors two and three there are gaps in the floor reminiscent of a shopping centre - you can walk along floor three and gaze down at people walking on floor two. On the ceiling are skylights to allow natural light in, which is okay during the winter but in summer it adds to the heat. Moreover, because of safety, these "gaps" have ugly safety nets draped over them.
Most Newcastle people I know - especially those who work there - are totally frustrated with "The John".
© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.