Late flu season overwhelms Auckland emergency departments

Overloaded emergency departments (EDs) in Auckland are begging for people to stay away unless they're in genuine need of emergency healthcare.

About 2600 people presented at EDs in the Waitemata District Health Board region last week, a 6 percent increase on the same time last year.

"Please help us to care for those who need it most by only coming to our EDs if you have an emergency," said chief medical officer Andrew Brant.

"If it is after-hours or you cannot get in to see your family doctor, the next option should be the nearest accident and medical clinic. The emergency department is only for those who are seriously unwell and in need of emergency care."

The uptick could be down to the influenza season's late arrival this winter.

"We are now seeing flu-related presentations. It is not too late to vaccinate and we strongly encourage people to do so via their family doctor," said Dr Brant.

If it's not an emergency, he said GPs or pharmacies should be the first port of call.

"Getting in quickly to be seen by your family doctor or discussing with your local pharmacist can prevent illnesses from escalating."

Even last year was a difficult one for EDs. Almost a year ago to the day, Middlemore Hospital put up a sign warning patients of an eight-hour wait.

In west Auckland, a local trust has been encouraging people to go to EDs instead of after-hours doctors because it's free.

"We cannot have whanau not seeking medical care because they don't have the money," John Tamihere of the Waipareira Trust said last year.

Dr Brant said people who need emergency care will still receive it.


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