Hospitals across New Zealand overrun with sick kids

Hospitals across the country are overrun with sick kids this winter. 

The spike in illness is being linked to outbreaks of various bugs, including a respiratory virus pushing emergency departments to the brink. 

Waitakere Hospital in Auckland is one of many seeing a surge in sickness this winter.  

One woman, who wanted to speak anonymously, says it was so busy on Wednesday night, there was no space for her daughter on the normal children's ward.

"I was like, man, they're really busy in here," she said.

Her daughter was sick enough that they needed to stay overnight.

"The nurse took us into what looked like a cupboard, but it was a clinician room, and I was like what is going on here?"

She was told the ward was overwhelmed with sick kids, particularly with a highly infectious respiratory illness called RSV doing the rounds. 

The DHB told Newshub the room was appropriate for the family's needs and said while there are spaces free now, the virus is contributing to increased demand across the hospital. 

"The thinking is because there was very little of this around in the community here and in other countries with COVID, the kids who would've got sick with it last year were not exposed to it," said children's respiratory expert Dr Julian Vyes.

Middlemore Hospital's emergency department for children had its busiest day ever a week and a half ago and Starship told Newshub it's also seeing record numbers of tamariki passing through the doors. 

For infants, the virus can lead to serious complications. 

"Some children need to be admitted to hospital for help and some children need to be admitted to intensive care units to help with their breathing," said Dr Vyes. 

The children's hospital at Middlemore is so concerned about the sudden increase in sickness, it's banned siblings from visiting their brothers or sisters to help slow the spread of the virus. 

GP clinics are being swamped too and it's not just kids catching winter bugs. 

Dr Lily Fraser said with no COVID here, people have become complacent. 

"Things are just spreading more as opposed to last year when people were quite strict about staying at home."

The health advice was drilled into us then, now we're being told to get back to the basics.