Emergency departments at breaking point

Emergency departments across Auckland are seeing record numbers and hospitals are nearly full to capacity.

Winter ills are putting emergency department staff under extra pressure and doctors are concerned that an influx of patients after the Lions decider will stretch resources even further - so they're asking people to drink responsibly.

Last week, Middlemore Hospital's emergency department saw 393 patients in one day, their highest number ever.

In June there was an increase of 800 patients compared to the same time last year.

Acting chief medical officer, Dr Vanessa Thornton, says the season started early.

"We weren't predicting this level of acute demand," says Dr Thornton, "It really started at the beginning of June, our numbers became very high, and much higher than usual, and this is across the whole region of Auckland and I think across the whole of New Zealand."

Waitemata DHB Emergency Departments are also reporting an increase in demand.

"On several days recently, both Waitakere Hospital and North Shore Hospital EDs have managed more than 300 combined presentations. The rate of presentations at Waitakere Hospital, in particular, has been higher than we would normally expect," says Cath Cronin, Director of Hospital Services at Waitemata DHB.

And with the final Lions Test match on Saturday, Auckland City Hospital is preparing for another busy weekend with alcohol-related injuries.

"We would also like to remind the public to please drink safely this weekend," says Auckland DHB's Clinical Director of ED, Anil Nair, "Alcohol-related harm makes up a large portion of our ED presentations, particularly when large sporting events are taking place."

Patients should be seen within six hours, but doctors are struggling to keep up.

"It is putting immense pressure on our target, we're having trouble meeting that target, people are working hard to meet that target," says Dr Thornton.

People who are unwell are being encouraged to call Healthline or see their GP early, to help avoid the need to go to hospital.

- Healthline on 0800 611 116