Waitākere and North Shore hospitals ask public to save ED for emergencies

Both Waitākere and North Shore hospitals are experiencing high demand in their emergency departments as the flu season hits.
CIARA PRATT/STUFF
Both Waitākere and North Shore hospitals are experiencing high demand in their emergency departments as the flu season hits.

Winter flu bugs are causing record demand at the emergency departments of Waitākere and North Shore hospitals in Auckland.

The Waitematā District Health Board is urging the public to avoid the emergency department unless in genuine need. 

About 2600 people visited the emergency departments over the past week, 150 more patients than the same period last year. 

Chief medical officer Dr Andrew Brant said every winter demand is high, but there has been more patients than predicted.

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"We know certainly the flu has hit now in the last week or so and we do see that flow through with an overall increase."

Waitematā DHB is encouraging the public to only visit the emergency department if it is a genuine emergency.
DENISE PIPER/STUFF
Waitematā DHB is encouraging the public to only visit the emergency department if it is a genuine emergency.

Brant said it had been particularly difficult to deal with the demand with the current resources.

Resources would be prioritised toward those in greatest need. 

"Please help us to care for those who need it most by only coming to our EDs if you have an emergency," he said.

Despite the heavy winter workload, he said people who needed hospital care would still receive it. 

"There's no problem with looking after people who need our help," he said.

"It's about people who are using our emergency departments who can use other clinics so we can relieve pressure in our department."

Similar pressures have been felt at Auckland City Hospital, with more than 1400 patients presented to the hospital's emergency department over a week in August, with 1290 patients in the same period in 2016. 

Christchurch Hospital also faced pressures as an "unrelenting" stream of patients pushed occupancy to 100 per cent at the beginning of August. 

Winter often saw staff off due to illness, putting more strain on those working, Brant said.

He encouraged the public to visit the local pharmacy or family doctor for non-urgent care to prevent illnesses from escalating. 

"The emergency department is only for those who are seriously unwell and in need of emergency care."

Brant also encouraged those who have not yet had their annual influenza immunisation to take action. 

Stuff