Let’s talk: Indignity in unisex hospital wards 809



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Hospital beds have long been a topic of ranting and raving in Australia, with the shortage well out of control.  But have we gone too far in combining mens and women’s wards, to a point where it is simply inappropriate?  Or do you think unisex hospital wards are just a part of the tough new economy of health services.

One Starts at 60 community member contacted us with her experience after being placed in a ward with both men and women, with both facing some embarrassment at the issues presented rather openly in the room.  “So many women still have some pride, and I might add it can be just as embarassing for the men.  There has to be a way to make it more comfortable for all concerned?”

Back in 2014, Queensland Health defended its use of mixed gender hospital wards in the media, saying the pressure for beds meant it was unavoidable.


So today we’re wondering how many have had similar experiences and agree with our community member?

Do you think that men and women should be cared for in separate wards in public hospitals or are the days of this luxury behind us as a society?


Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. I am not well and spend time in hospital ..I don’t have a problem with it .Why should I?

  2. No !!! It’s not right and should not happen I am a nurse and think it’s so wrong

    1 REPLY
    • If you are a nurse Helen…you should understand the system and difficulties better!!

  3. I have never liked it, nor will I, enough of ones dignity is taken away in some cases without this situation !

    1 REPLY
    • Absolutely agree Mary. You are at your vulnerable worst when you are on hospital. No need to exacerbate the situation.

  4. I don’t believe men and woman should be in the same wards together. We should have enough nurses to allow segregated wards like it used to be.

    25 REPLY
    • It’s not really about the nurses…it’s about having room for unexpected patients…my son had an accident and had to be admitted late at night so they had to put him in a bed somewhere..and the only bed available for that night was in the old ladies ward…no biggie…he was transferred to the men’s ward next day once a bed became available…got a nice window bed too…

    • Ann no one is blaming the nurses, however no matter what age someone is it JUST SHOULD NOT HAPPEN.

    • Not a situation of enough nurses its beds. You may have to be put in a mixed ward where a bed is available or n notit have a bed at all,

      1 REPLY
    • Ann Maree Beales Agreed. Surely it’s better to have a bed in a mixed sex room than not to get admitted at all.

    • Ann Maree Beales Its not about your son mate its about going back to the old system men and women wards,……….. if your son had NOT be given an bed that night he simply been kept in emergency department? cheers……futher more their are no rooms just for seniors so what age are you preferring to

      1 REPLY
      • Oh Maria…think about it? If they kept all the patients in ED waiting for a same sex bed….people would be dying at the door!

        1 REPLY
        • Anonymous I also am a nurse and it’s common practice to keep pts in ED waiting for a bed. Admittedly it is difficult but same sex wards could be accomplished if management handled the bed situation better. However having said that the new GCUH now has mostly single rooms so it’s not really so much of a problem there but I know it is at older hospitals. But it is still wrong to have mixed wards and could be avoided with a little planning.

          1 REPLY
          • now white if you are a nurse you will know ED works on the strictest time frame to keep the flow of patients moving and blocking cubicles, thus getting each and every patient out of ED as soon as is safe and possible. You will also know that if a patient is waiting for a bed, gender DOES not come into the equation. You know nothing about the Patient flow system if this is what you believe. I do not think you are a nurse, and if so when and where?

    • Maria Poland Are you seriously suggesting that a patient should be kept unnecessarily in ED because there’s no “male” bed available? Have you considered the consequences of that? i.e. patients in ambulances waiting for even longer because of ED bed block? I guess not.

    • They were just all older at the time…like in their late 70’s and eighty’s I didn’t mention senior wards either…goodness me !

    • Julia are you for real??? unfortunately these days many patients are kept in emergency until bed become free that is common practice these days………….

      1 REPLY
      • OK Maria. You have just shown yourself up once…please dont embarrass yourself again until you educate yourself on how the PHS functions from a patient being admitted to ED and then going onto the ward. Now think about this one 🙂

    • Maria Poland Yes, unfortunately patients are kept in ED until A bed becomes free – not until a bed of the ‘right’ sex becomes available.

    • Julia Metcalfe every one sooner or later will get a bed……….just recent a friend of our on the South Coast was in the emergency ward for three days until he was able to have a bed itsthe system mate

    • I’m not saying it’s right or wrong…just saying it happened and my son didn’t mind…I was surprised myself but there was nothing we could do about it..and it had nothing to do with the nurses!

    • Maria Poland “sooner or later”. Tell that to the poor sod who’s waiting on an ambulance trolley because someone in ED is being a special snowflake about who they’ll share with.

      1 REPLY
      • Julia…sadly Maria Poland cant think of that…she mustl think every ED has magic cubicles that appear every time the last one is filled 😛

    • Shirley Lynds Broadbere Mortara I would have demanded the move also if it was my daughter in an all male ward

    • Yes my sons accident was at 5pm but he wasn’t transferred to the ward until after midnight…so the women’s ward was where he ended up..really didn’t care by that time…

    • Julia Metcalfe Just maybe you should tell this to our politicians………….

      1 REPLY
      • Maria You have so much to say about knowing nothing…maybe YOU should write to your local MP!

    • Maria Poland perhaps you should since you’re the one who hates the current situation so much. Ideally, I’d like to see women share only with women and men only with men but it unfortunately doesn’t always work out that way.

    • If you are ill enough to be in hospital, who cares if you are in a mixed ward? I had the experience of being in a ward with the ‘patient from hell’ who was addicted to every drug known to man by her own admission. There were just the 2 of us and I feared for my life when she was coming down off her cocktail. Would have welcomed being in a mixed ward.

    • For general
      Medical wards or orthopaedic don’t think it matters. Clearly obstetric or other female issues should remain all female.

  5. I think Women should have their own wards and the same with Men wards…….modern times dont always agree with everyone, especial for the seniors………the government have it all wrong well and truely…….

    12 REPLY
    • public funding does not give choice, you need to pay for it yourself otherwise you have to put up with it.

    • Beri Vera everyone entitle to their opinion………..but we should have a choice when it comes to mixed wards OK??????and go back to the old system were we had female wards and mens wards and if you have chronic ill health and in hospital all the times having the same sex gender is better for all concern

      1 REPLY
      • You still dont get it do you?? There are NO BEDS!!!

    • Maria Poland If we went back to the good old days of nightingale wards, where someone would be in for 10 days to a fortnight for a cholecystectomy, none of us would ever get a bed again.

    • Maria Poland I was talking about the changes in length of stay. People used to stay in hospital for a lot longer back in your good old days. This quick turn around in patients has consequences for bed management.

      1 REPLY
    • @Beri Vera….. That sort of attitude is what allows the lowest common denominator to prevail. The “user pays” concept goes down the dark hole of Americanisation of our health system. No way!!!

    • I think that mixed wards are a law suit waiting to happen. I had a friend who was very ill and placed in a 4 bed ward with three men. The guy across from her kept asking her if he could hop into bed with her. She was too sick to sass him, and there was not a nurse in sight to express her alarm. When a nurse finally appeared a couple of hours later and she told him what had occurred, nothing happened. she was not removed to another ward and neither was the obnoxious guy. She also found it very embarrassing to have her heart checked with the same guy ogling her (those curtains never close properly and people are always going in and out)

    • It’s a very embarassing situation to be inespecially if need to use a bed pan because you can’t get out of bed. Just because you’re ill doesn’t mean you don’t have the need to some amount of privacy in a public ward or not.

    • That was one of my gripes, when i had to share ward with men,Got nothing against men, but certain things mmmmm

    • Maria Poland You were the one who talked about how much better things were before, I was just giving examples of how they weren’t. Not sure why you want to change the subject.

    • Lot of n onsense If I am sick enough to be in hospital then I want a bed and a competent doctor and a chance of getting out without catching some new disease. If you want never ending growth so we can all be wealthy get used to deterioration of standard s for the 99% at the bottom of the heap. You want luxury then do as Joe Hockey and Prime Minister Turnbull says and get a better job so you can pay for it

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