Cold snap blamed for Nth Island's winter ills

The cold snap earlier this month is getting some of the blame for an epidemic of flu-like and respiratory illnesses which has overloaded hospitals in the Auckland region.

Hundreds of sick people have been arriving at emergency departments each day and sometimes waiting up to eight hours for treatment, hospitals told the New Zealand Herald.

Another cold southerly outbreak forecast for Friday and Saturday is expected to keep the numbers high.

Auckland's Middlemore Hospital was the busiest with record numbers through its emergency department but other hospitals also reported a late-winter peak in numbers. Waikato Hospital in Hamilton also reported an increased in respiratory cases.

On Monday a record 356 patients arrived Middlemore's emergency department, clinical director Dr Vanessa Thornton said and the department had seen more than 300 people a day since last Friday.

The previous highest was 330 two years ago.

The hospital had postponed some outpatient clinics to transfer staff on acute services, was using bureau nurses to overcome staff shortages caused by sickness and asking doctors to work overtime.

The number of respiratory infections had increased since temperatures plunged in mid August and Dr Thornton said people should go to their doctor.

She said part of the increase was in the 15-39 age group -- people who did not often go to a doctor.

Other hospitals reported similar problems. Rotorua, Tauranga and Taupo hospitals were almost full with Tauranga getting about 180 cases a day.

Auckland City Hospital and Starship children's hospital had late-winter peak of patients.




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