A hospital struggling with an upsurge of influenza and
similar illnesses is appealing to patients to see their GP
early rather than waiting and going to the emergency
Middlemore Hospital in south Auckland has been particularly
hard hit by the wintertime flood of patients and is urging
those eligible for free flu vaccination to get it if they
haven't already. The annual programme of state-paid
vaccination for the elderly, pregnant women and people with
certain chronic diseases ends on Sunday.
"ED presentations have been up 6 per cent in the last month,"
said the clinical head of the hospital's emergency
department, Dr Vanessa Thornton. "A lot of that has been the
flu and people not going to their doctor first off." "People
should get early review from their own doctor." On Monday,
the Middlemore ED managed 337 patients, 300 on Sunday and 297
Over the last week the average has been 310 a day. During
winter 300 a day has become the new normal.
"I think across the [Auckland] region it's been very high,"
Dr Thornton said of the impact of flu on hospital
Her hospital's medical and surgical wards were 7 per cent
over capacity yesterday, meaning that some medical patients
had to be nursed in surgical wards and some were kept in
areas normally used for other purposes. A 15-bed observation
unit in the ED, which had not been in use as its functions
had been moved to another area, has been re-opened as an
additional holding area for patients waiting for a bed on a
The Counties Manukau District Health Board has not cancelled
any elective surgery as a result of the upsurge of patients
because most of its electives are done at its Manukau
Surgical Centre rather than Middlemore.
The number of influenza-like cases seen each week at general
practices in the Counties Manukau and central Auckland health
districts has jumped this month, peaking at about 120 cases
for every 100,000 enrolled patients. This is considered high
and is more than twice the average rate for the rest of the
A spokeswoman for Waitemata DHB, which operates the North
Shore and Waitakere hospitals, said they had been running at
near or above maximum capacity this week, peaking at 2 per
The DHB had experienced an upsurge in flu cases since late
July, but the high capacity this week was from the full range
of winter illnesses and not just influenza.
Patient numbers at the DHB's two emergency departments in the
past fortnight were up on the same time last year.
"The public's first port of call should always be their
family practitioner unless there is an emergency or
life-threatening situation," the spokeswoman said.
Auckland DHB said, "We're busy, like everyone else, because
it's winter. We are not at capacity, but close to it. We have
had to put in place escalation plans." The Waikato DHB said
high numbers of children had been presenting at the Thames
and Waikato hospitals since last week, largely with
"We are considering, on Friday, whether we start cancelling
elective surgery on children for the first half of next
- By Martin Johnston of the New Zealand Herald