Workloads surge as winter ills bite
Winter bugs are sweeping Canterbury, with patients spending hours in medical centre waiting rooms at the weekend.
Influenza, sore throats and colds have struck more people than by this time last year, with medical centres and Christchurch Hospital reporting increased demand.
The clinical director of nursing at Pegasus Health's Bealey Ave 24-hour surgery, Louisa Sullivan, said that in the past month the centre had seen a "surge in demand".
"It is winter and this is the time of year when we would expect increased demand ... but the flu is more virulent this year and we're seeing a lot of colds, flu-like illnesses and sore throats."
She said weekends were busier than weekdays, and people could be waiting more than an hour to be seen by a doctor.
Patients were seen in order of priority, she said.
Christchurch Hospital is operating on an auto-divert system. People who call St John but are assessed as non-emergency cases will be taken to medical centres to free up hospital beds.
Sullivan said this had resulted in a "bit of extra pressure", but primary care across Canterbury was working "incredibly well".
"We are busy, but we're not at overload and I wouldn't say we're seeing unusual demand," she said.
The hospital has seen a spike in flu-patient numbers in the past two weeks, and health authorities expect things to worsen as schools return from holidays today.
Forty patients were in hospital last Friday with either confirmed influenza or symptoms, and five of those were in a critical condition in the intensive-care unit.
People were being urged to stay home if they felt unwell.
Christchurch resident Ali Jones spent three hours at the 24-hour centre in Bealey Ave yesterday.
She said staff were "as efficient as they could be" considering the number of people in the waiting room.
"We waited three hours and the doctor saw both my children. We wore masks because there were possibly people there with the flu and we don't want it," she said.
Canterbury's flu rate is higher than the national average.
Last week, most district health boards around the country had 26 confirmed influenza cases. Canterbury had 141.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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