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Blowing the whistle on mixed gender hospital rooms in Australia and New Zealand: a human rights issue
  1. Cindy Towns1,
  2. Angela Ballantyne2
  1. 1 Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand
  2. 2 Primary Health Care and General Practice, Otago University, Wellington, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Dr Cindy Towns, Department of Medicine, University of Otago Wellington, Wellington 6242, New Zealand; Cindy.Towns{at}


The practice of placing men and women in the same hospital room (mixed gender rooms) has been prohibited in the UK National Health Service for over a decade. However, recent research demonstrates that the practice is common and increasing in a major New Zealand public hospital. Reports and complaints show that the practice also occurs in Australia. We argue that mixed gender rooms violate the fundamental human rights of personal security and dignity. The high rates of cognitive impairment, sensory impairment and frailty in hospital wards exacerbates the risk for these violations and subsequent harm. We argue for the adoption of specific national policies prohibiting mixed gender rooms and public reporting of breaches. Importantly, these guidelines can be adopted without compromising the rights of gender minorities. In the long term, hospitals should be built with single occupancy rooms.

  • Ethics
  • Human Rights
  • Public Policy
  • Women

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  • Contributors CT initiated the project, undertook the research and was primarily responsible for drafting the manuscript. AB contributed key ideas and themes for the manuscript, undertook research for specific sections of the paper and contributed to drafting and editing the manuscript. CT accepts full responsibility for the finished work, the conduct of the study, had access to the data, and controlled the decision to publish.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.