The number of patients relying on the services of Timaru Hospital's Emergency Department (ED) has reached a five-year high.
Doctors and nurses treated 1677 patients through the department in December. That figure was an increase of three to four patients a day on the July to November average.
The December surge peaked late in the month with 64 patients treated on the 27th and 70 on the 28th.
Patients living outside South Canterbury had contributed to the spike, with 151 visiting the ED throughout the month. That figure was up by 58 on the July to November average.
South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB) information services representative Ewen MacLeod stated in a memo to the senior leadership team, the increase was mainly confined to the lower urgency triage four category.
He said despite the increase, targets for both triage waiting times and length of stay in the ED were met "comfortably".
SCDHB chief executive Nigel Trainor said he could not confirm how many of those patients could have received care through their GP instead.
"I think the ED is slightly growing again and we're going to have to stand back and look at why."
The SCDHB spends about $8000 a year reminding the community that the hospital's ED is for emergencies only.
- The Timaru Herald