Patients forced to wait up to seven hours in Christchurch Hospital's emergency department


Christchurch residents are being reminded to think carefully about their options for medical care as the city's emergency department struggles with demand.

On Monday 15 August, 366 people arrived and at 7pm there were 131 being cared for in the department, with many more waiting for care.

Thirty-eight percent of people needed to be admitted for further treatment.

With a range of winter illnesses affecting staffing levels and the number of cases presented, Te Whatu Ora Waitaha Canterbury acting chief medical officer Richard Laing has appealed to people to save the emergency department for emergencies.

The ED's clinical director Dr Mark Gilbert shared his concern.

He told Morning Report the average number of people seen in the ED was 325 people on a week day and even higher numbers at weekends.

On Monday the ED not only had a busy day - there was a shortage of beds on the wards creating a situation where patients had to queue to gain a place on a ward.

At one stage 24 patients were in the queue which was "difficult" for staff, he said.

Dr Gilbert said people who were very unwell would be seen immediately. Those with less urgent needs could wait anywhere from three to seven hours.

His first patient for the day yesterday had waited seven hours to be seen.

"What we're wanting people to be aware of, and we know people are really good at this, is to really think about the best place to go - the place that's most appropriate for them."

During business hours people could contact their GP and after hours they could call Healthline (on 0800 611 116) and it was free of charge.

There were also urgent care clinics which operated extended hours with three available in Christchurch.

Pharmacies could also offer some excellent practical advice for the likes of flu and colds, Dr Gilbert said.

"ED is still there and if it is an emergency we absolutely still want to see people."