Overindulgence is the vice that keeps hospital staff humming through their busiest period of the year.
The maladies that come in during the few days either side of New Year's Eve are as varied as the thousands of people who flock to the Coromandel: dog bites, stomach pains, joint injuries, lacerations, falls, car crashes, chest pain, diarrhoea and vomiting.
Staff numbers have been beefed up at Thames Hospital to deal with the huge increase in the area's population.
Nurse director for Waikato and Thames hospitals, Suzanne Lawes, said it is their biggest couple of days all year.
The busiest year since 1993 was in 2012 when 84 patients came in.
However, they now have an accurate planning tool that projects the number of patients on New Year's Day. For example, Waikato Hospital is expecting 171 patients in the 24 hours from midnight and 72 of those will be converted to inpatients.
Ms Lawes said Thames staff were working through their inpatient beds so there is a good flow from the emergency department into the wards.
They are in a good place, but they know what's coming.
Ask any experienced emergency department nurse or doctor about the period around New Year's Eve and they'll shake their heads, she said.
She advised people to look after each other tonight and the days following and not to be afraid to speak up if someone's overdoing the alcohol.
It will be business as usual at Waikato Hospital tonight but assistant group manager Jo-Anne Deane said they have a new agreement to get more patients treated at the 24-hour accident and medical centres on Angelsea and Victoria streets instead of clogging up the emergency department.
"So that's totally different to last year and we believe that's had some impact if you look at the numbers that came through over Christmas and the two previous years."
Ms Deane said their workload often depended on what's going on socially, yet it's variable. "You can get blocks of arrivals and sometimes you can find the period between 10pm and 12.30am can have a bit of a lull and suddenly it starts happening again so it's all quite variable."
For example, wet weather may curb the overindulgence but increase road accidents.
"At the end of the day when the departments have that number of people coming through, they're just busy. We gear up to manage the departments but you only have to have one large accident, for example, or a complex patient that takes more than one person and that slows everything down."
Ms Deane urged people to go to accident and medical clinics instead of the ED for minor sickness and injury.
An estimated third of Waikato DHB's 6400 staff will be working through the New Year period and it's tough for them, too, Ms Lawes said.
"For our staff it is difficult because we're caring for others when we want to be with our own families, but it's something in health that you come in knowing."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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