Rotorua Daily Post health and business reporter

Doctors ready for winter ills

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Dr Harry Pert.
Dr Harry Pert.

Extra staff have been rostered on at Rotorua's after hours health provider to cope with an anticipated rise in demand over the winter months.

The extra doctor numbers started this week, as Lakes PrimeCare gears up for the annual peak of winter illnesses.

Business manager Christine Kampfraath said it now had one extra doctor working on all weeknight evenings and doctors' shifts had been rearranged so there were more doctors present for most of the day.

Stay away from work, we urge parents not to use kindy and kohanga reo as a babysitter for sick kids.
Dr Harry Pert

She said there had been a slight increase in patient numbers over the past week - partly due to the public holiday weekend. In other years the peak of winter illnesses was in July and August.

Mrs Kampfraath said there were no particular type of illnesses patients were presenting with.

"I think there is an increase in consultations for children, but this is to some degree offset by a reduction in consultations for older patients."

She said Lakes PrimeCare had coped with the demand, although at times there had been a waiting time of up to an hour.

Rotorua Hospital clinical director for the emergency department, Dr Peter Freeman, said the department was starting to see the usual winter ailments like chest infections and bronchiolitis in both younger and older people.

He said they hadn't yet had any influenza cases.

Assistant communications officer Shan Tapsell said emergency department volumes appeared similar to the same time last year.

She said the hospital occupancy rate yesterday was 97 per cent for adult beds, and 90 per cent for the children's unit, but those figures changed "constantly" during the day.

Ms Tapsell said with the cooler weather it was important people thought about the best place to go for health care rather than simply heading to the emergency department.

"It's preferable that patients see their family doctor in their own medical centre. GPs are specialists in providing healthcare in the community, whereas ED doctors provide specialist emergency care.

The GP is very often the person to provide the right care at the right time, and this helps ease pressure on the emergency departments especially as the winter weather sets in.

"Cooler weather means that people with respiratory difficulties should ensure their prescriptions for asthma medication are up to date. It's important that people with chronic conditions also ensure they have a supply of medications on hand."

Ms Tapsell said those from out of town or who did not want to wait to see their family doctor should visit Lakes PrimeCare.

She said those who turned up at the emergency department when they should be seeing their family doctor might have to wait "quite a while to be treated" as staff would always treat emergency cases first.

Ranolf Medical Centre GP Dr Harry Pert said the practice had noticed a jump in patients in the past week with the typical winter bugs like respiratory infections.

He said at this stage it was mainly coughs and colds, and doctors hadn't seen many cases of influenza yet.

"Our advice is still the same. Stay away from work, we urge parents not to use kindy and kohanga reo as a babysitter for sick kids."

Dr Pert said there was still time to get a flu vaccination and he recommended people get one in the next couple of weeks.

What can you do:

* Get the influenza vaccination from your nurse or doctor, even if you are fit and healthy.

* Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and then wash your hands.

* Always use disposable tissues and stay at home when you are sick.

* Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water and dry your hands with a clean dry towel or paper towel.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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