New Zealand’s academics said on Tuesday that the practice of men and women sharing hospital rooms should be prohibited.
In a study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, the researchers outlined how mixed gender hospital rooms go against the fundamental rights of personal security and dignity, reports Xinhua news agency.
Placing male and female patients in the same room “compromises the safety of female patients and threatens the dignity of all patients”, said lead author Cindy Towns of the University of Otago, Wellington.
“Risk of rights violations and subsequent harm is exacerbated by the high rates of physical, cognitive, and sensory impairment experienced by people in hospital wards,” Towns said.
New Zealand needs to immediately adopt specific national policies prohibiting mixed gender hospital rooms and mandating public reporting of breaches, she said, adding that despite being prohibited in Britain for more than a decade, the practice is common and increasing in the country.
Previous research by the group showed mixed rooms were common in a major New Zealand public hospital.
In the more than 160,000 admissions analysed, 48 per cent were affected by mixed gender rooms.
The prevalence also increased over the eight-year period studied, and disproportionately affected vulnerable older adults, according to the study.
Health system reviews, patient surveys and media reports in Australia and Britain have highlighted increased distress and fear of assault among women in mixed gender rooms, it said.
“Being forced into a room with men when unwell and vulnerable, often separated by only a curtain, may be traumatising to many women, even if the perception of threat or danger isn’t realized,” Towns said.
Mixed gender rooms breach the psychological safety of these patients, but this is avoidable by changing bed management practices, she said.