Hawke's Bay's most vulnerable populations are being crowded at Hawke's Bay Hospital's Emergency Department (ED).

Figures released to Hawke's Bay Today under the Official Information Act show children to four years of age are the main group of patients, with over-85-yearolds the third-biggest group, behind 20-24 year-olds.

Maori, who in this year's census were 23 per cent of Hawke's Bay's population, made up 29 per cent of ED presentations.

Pacific people, who made up 4.1 per cent of the population, made 5.2 per cent of ED presentations.


The busiest day in ED over the past year was on New Year's Day, with 159 presentations.

"To the extent that we can, we are preparing for another record day," ED consultant Dr Renee Greven-Garcia said.

She is asking people to use ED for emergencies only.

"This department really hasn't increased its size in almost 20 years, however, I can't say the same for increasing presentations. Simply speaking, we really aren't prepared to treat those kinds of numbers. The number of treatment spaces we have limit us to how many people we can see.

She said non-urgent ED visitors could expect delays.

"It is not first-come firstserved. We have to treat the people that we perceive to be the most urgent and sicker cases first. Traumas and dangerous things like chest pains and trouble breathing are always going to take priority.

She said the spike in New Year's Day numbers was alcohol-related.

"Either people wake up from their revelries and discover they have been injured or experience the after-effects - headaches or vomiting - or something they didn't appreciate the night before."

Three years ago Hawke's Bay District Health Board instigated a free-phone information service - 0800 33 88 99 - to enable people to find out where their nearest medical centre was for nonurgent cases.

Flyers have been printed and radio advertisements are being broadcast.

The hospital had on-call theatre teams but fewer onhand resources during the holiday period.

"We are staffed for emergencies but everything has a limit."