Patients are getting cold comfort from new blue microfibre blankets which are replacing white cotton blankets at the region’s hospitals.
A Shellharbour Hospital nurse said staff were receiving ongoing complaints from patients about the blankets, which have been introduced at a number of the state’s public hospitals including Shellharbour and Wollongong.
Similar complaints from patients at hospitals elsewhere in the state have prompted the state opposition to call for an independent investigation into the blue blankets.
Further, NSW Labor has called for a halt to the distribution of the blankets and a ‘’pause’’ on the sale or destruction of the traditional white blankets until that investigation has taken place.
Shellharbour nurse Nadia Rodriguez, a NSW Nurses and Midwives Association member, said patients claimed the new product did not provide the same level of warmth or comfort as the traditional blankets.
‘’In the last several months the blue blankets have been steadily replacing the white blankets at Shellharbour and are now in use across most wards,’’ she said.
‘’There was no communication with staff over the change – the blankets just appeared. There’s been a lot of complaints from patients, particularly frail, elderly patients, who say they’re not warm enough.
‘’They ask for an extra blanket but then are finding that the two blankets are quite heavy on them. You can definitely feel the difference in weight while carrying them.’’
A spokeswoman for HealthShare NSW, which manages the supply of linen to NSW’s public hospitals, said the blue blankets were gradually being introduced as part of a move to ‘’new, improved and innovative’’ products.
She said feedback from hospital management and patients had been ‘’positive’’.
‘’The new blankets are made of an advanced long chain polyester, are flame retardant, environmentally friendly and more comfortable for patients,’’ the spokeswoman said.
‘’The new blankets are less likely than cotton blankets to release fibres that can transfer to patient wounds, affecting healing. They are also less likely to harbour bacteria and odours.’’
The spokeswoman also maintained that the new blankets were warmer; citing tests by the Australian Wool Testing Authority which demonstrated they had have superior heat entrapment and 50 per cent less static build-up than the white cotton blankets.
However Wollongong MP Paul Scully and Labor’s health spokesman Walt Secord called the introduction of the new product ‘’another health stuff-up’’ by the state government.
‘’There is so much need in the area of health and hospitals in the Illawarra and South Coast but again we see another example of waste and mismanagement,’’ Mr Scully said.
‘’Patients know best. They know when they are cold. Just imagine being an elderly patient who has just had a hip replacement with very limited mobility – being told by a health bureaucrat that you are not cold.
‘’Furthermore, the extra blankets mean the patients are pinned down under the weight.’’
Mr Secord said complaints about the inadequacy of the blankets had been made at Illawarra hospitals, and further south at hospitals in Moruya and Bega.
He said as well as the lack of warmth and heavy weight, patients also complained of uncomfortable static friction between the blankets – which was giving them little shocks.
“Staff have advised us that the new linen just appeared and they were instructed to start using them,’’ he said. ‘’No-one asked for the change. The blankets just appeared, but it quickly became apparent that the purchase had not been properly investigated.”
As well as the Illawarra hospitals, the new blankets are now in use throughout Southern NSW, Murrumbidgee, Central Coast, Greater Western and Mid North Coast local health districts.