Record numbers of people suffering from non-urgent medical conditions are swamping Tauranga Hospital's Emergency Department.
The emergency department saw 176, 172 and 168 patients over three days last week - similar numbers to those seen during the New Year period.
Emergency Department clinical director Derek Sage said his staff were being swamped with patients who should have instead visited their GPs or a pharmacist.
"The Emergency Department is being inundated by unprecedented numbers of patients," Dr Sage said.
"Attending ED when you shouldn't diverts resources and, potentially, puts very sick people at risk."
It depends on whether people think GPs can manage the sort of problem they have, and also how much money it would cost, especially after hours.
Dr Sage (pictured) said staff had recently seen people for constipation, itchy eyes, sore throats, colds, irritating coughs, high blood pressure, simple ankle sprains, diarrhoea, joint pain, back pain and some who had just run out of their medications.
"These are not emergencies. If you have these symptoms, your first thought should be to contact your GP."
Additional staff had been required to cope with the recent spike in demand.
"We cannot do that every day of the week." Dr Sage said.
Tauranga GP Tony Farrell believed patient perception and cost were the main reasons people chose to wait in ED rather than see a general practitioner.
"It depends on whether people think GPs can manage the sort of problem they have, and also how much money it would cost, especially after hours," Dr Farrell said.
Dr Farrell encouraged people to visit a local GP, rather than add to high ED numbers.
However, GPs were also under pressure themselves.
"It would be much better for them to visit their GP, but then again we do have very high utilisation rates and our books are full daily. There is a pressure on medical services at this present time," Dr Farrell said.