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Several elective surgeries had to be postponed last week at Dunedin Hospital after winter demand meant the facility ran out of beds for patients.
Patient numbers nationwide usually increase in winter, but this year has been busier than usual in the South.
Dunedin Hospital's emergency department has also been stretched several times in recent weeks, but a surge in patients last week meant more people than planned had to be admitted to wards, Southern District Health Board nursing director Jenny Hanson said.
"Unfortunately this meant we did postpone a number of elective patients to ensure we could accommodate those who needed to be admitted from the emergency department.''
The Otago Daily Times is aware of one patient who took leave from work for their surgery, only to find out hours before their procedure that it had been postponed.
"We did endeavour to communicate early with all the postponed patients,'' Ms Hanson said.
"However there [were] a small number of patients whose surgery we had to postpone at short notice and we are sorry this had to occur.''
Affected patients would be rebooked as soon as possible, Ms Hanson said.
"Hospital occupancy has eased, and we are back to fully functioning elective lists.''
Ms Hanson urged people to seek help from a pharmacist or GP as soon as they felt unwell, and not wait until they faced an emergency situation which required hospital care.