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Dunedin Hospital has been hit by a ''perfect storm'' of two different gastroenteritis bugs, patient services medical director Dick Bunton says.
The emergency department (ED) was also stretched by higher-than-usual numbers.
Twenty-three staff and 21 patients had been ill with a mix of norovirus and Clostridium difficile in the past two weeks.
The outbreak had closed ward 6A, and ward 8B was designated solely for gastroenteritis patients, Mr Bunton said yesterday.
Sixteen elective surgery procedures had been postponed. The hospital was considering an offer from Mercy Hospital to assist with surgery.
The emergency department was ''busy as hell''. This was exacerbated by disruption to patient flow to wards closed by the outbreak, Mr Bunton said.
To relieve pressure, ED staff were giving patients chits to use at the Dunedin Urgent Doctors and Accident Centre. Only two had been given so far.
Mr Bunton said it was the first time, to his knowledge, chits had been given to patients to pay for a consultation elsewhere.
The Southern District Health Board has asked the public to go to ED only in an emergency.
Anyone who had experienced gastroenteritis symptoms in the past 48 hours was asked not to visit the hospital.
Mr Bunton believed the outbreak was slowing, but the situation would be reassessed today.
Seven new cases were reported yesterday: two patients and five staff.
Some staff were off work caring for sick children, he said.
A third ward hit by the outbreak, 6B, reopened on Tuesday.
Staff were working hard to keep the hospital functioning.
''So far, we've been able to staff all the areas, just. But I wouldn't like to see this go on for too much longer.
''I think they're doing a ... sterling job.''
Dunedin's Ross Home and Hospital is also affected by a vomiting and diarrhoea bug. Signs at the entrance last night asked visitors to speak to staff before entering.
Attempts to contact the manager last night were unsuccessful.
In Balclutha, the gastroenteritis outbreak continues at Clutha Health First. Chief executive Ray Anton said admissions to the inpatient ward were not being accepted and visits by the public were restricted.