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ICU - Intensive Care Unit

Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and High Dependency/Coronary Care Unit (HDU/CCU)

Intensive Care or Critical Care refers to the special treatment given to patients who suffer from a serious medical problem. This unit is a nationally accredited Level 2 unit incorporating 4 ICU beds and 4 HDU/CCU that look after adult and paediatric patients. Patients with a variety of medical illnesses are cared for by highly trained intensivists, medical officers and critical care registered nurses who provide around the clock care. Patients receive high-quality care supported by state of the art equipment.


Who is cared for in the ICU?

Many different types of patients are admitted to the ICU. Some come from the Emergency Department, some from other wards within the hospital because of complications from their illness. While there are many different types of patients in the ICU they all need the same thing - constant observation and specialised care.


Why all the machines? And why are they so noisy?

When you first come into the ICU one of the things that may concern you is the amount of equipment and machines attached to your family member or friend.

The first thing you may notice is the breathing machine that is called a ventilator, which is used when patients are too weak or ill to breathe for themselves. When your family member or friend has a ventilator working for them, they are unable to speak to you. So when you speak to him or her, ask simple questions that can be answered with a shake or nod of the head. The patient will often be heavily sedated to keep him or her comfortable, so may appear and feel very sleepy and may not always respond to you.

Another machine you will see is a heart monitor. It looks like a television with many coloured lines moving across the screen. The lines (traces) measure the activity of the patient's heart. The heart monitor is connected to the patient by means of sticky pads on the skin.

The beeps and other electronic noises you hear constantly are the alerts from the machines to let the nurse know when something needs attention.

In addition you will probably see several tubes called catheters either putting fluid and nutrients into the patient or taking other fluids out.  Working together, these machines and monitors help make intensive care as safe and effective as possible.


Who are all these people working in the ICU?

There are highly trained doctors, nurses and other health care professionals working in ICU. Among the many people you will see is the intensivist (a specialist doctor in ICU). A critical care nurse is usually assigned to care for one or two patients at a time and has constant access to information about the patient.

Physiotherapists provide respiratory care and help the patient recover smoothly. Social workers can help with care for family members, discuss financial resources and assist in making plans for the future care of your family member or friend after leaving the ICU. The chaplain can offer daily emotional and spiritual support for patients and families. Please speak to your nurse if you would like to speak to either the social worker or chaplain.

Dietitians ensure the patient is getting all their nutritional requirements. Pharmacists provide medicines and provide the ICU team with detailed information and instructions on the medicines.

Who can find out how the patient is?

Privacy is always maintained concerning the care of the patient. Information is given only to the immediate family members and other enquiries are directed to the family.


Who and when can we visit our friend/family member?

Visiting is restricted to immediate family members only, however if the family wishes other people to visit the patient, please speak to the nurse first. Visiting hours for the HDU are the same as the hospital visiting hours, however ICU patients may have immediate family visit at anytime. Please do not bring children without speaking to the nurse first. 


Can I bring flowers or gifts?


Flowers are not allowed in the unit, but greeting cards and photos of friends/ family or a familiar item for the patient to look at are very welcome.

The best thing you can do for people you love when they are in ICU is to be there for them. You can touch them, hold their hand, talk to them and let them know you love them. Let the doctor know what kind of care the patient would want.


What can I do for my family member/friend?

When someone you love is in the ICU take the time to care for yourself. Take walks, eat regular meals, get some fresh air, read or be with friends and make sure that you do whatever you usually do to help you cope. It is important that you are in a good state of mind and feeling well to be able to help and emotionally support your family member/friend while they are in ICU.

Remember, he or she is a patient in ICU because of a very serious illness or injury. You can help by letting him or her know you are there. While this is a difficult time for both the patient and the family, your loved one is in the best place her or she can be, with a team of medical experts working to make sure the or she receives the best possible care.

If you have any questions or concerns please come and talk to the medical or nursing staff who will help you.