Waikato's emergency departments are being inundated with the really, really sick people - something that's actually pleased those working there over the festive season.
"There's been quite a few through the emergency department that are quite sick, which is what we want," Waikato Hospital on-call manager Colleen Hartley told the Times yesterday.
"Patients that need to be seen by a GP can go to Anglesea clinic but the ED is really only having emergencies in it - so it's great."
Ms Hartley said they had a few deaths yesterday, which was "not what you want on Christmas Day.
"But it's the nature of the beast."
Figures provided to the Times show that some of those who have turned up faced lengthy waits for treatment.
Waikato Hospital failed to meet the government-imposed health target of getting 95 per cent of people through the emergency department in under six hours every day between Friday and Sunday.
Saturday was particularly busy with 185 patients being treated, well above the number they predicted they'd see.
On that day only 74 per cent of people were seen and treated within six hours.
Ms Hartley said many of those presenting to the ED were elderly or long-term unwell medical cases. "So it takes a bit of time to get them sorted.
"There's no quick and easy surgical thing we can do.
"We can't take them to theatre and cut the bit out, like an appendix."
Last week the hospital had to cancel 21 planned surgeries because of the increased demand for treatment of the very ill, which was putting increased pressure on bed numbers.
But Ms Hartley said they'd managed well over the past few days and there was lots of Christmas cheer.
"There's been lots of relatives popping up with presents, so that's been lovely.
"And I think the staff do their best. They kind of dress up and have a bit of santa cheer and that makes a big difference."
The number of drunk and disorderly people was also down on previous years.
While Ms Hartley said they hadn't had many people turn up to the emergency department with minor medical complaints, she urged people to remember the ED was for emergencies only.
If unwell or injured people are unsure where they need to go for medical care over the festive season they can call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for free advice from our trained registered nurses or visit waikatodhb.health.nz/holidays.