A spike in winter illnesses saw visits to Hawke's Bay Hospital's Emergency Department surge at the weekend.

Chief medical officer John Gommans said there had been a big increase in people presenting to the Emergency Department with respiratory illnesses like asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis on Saturday and Sunday.

"We really want to encourage people if they are feeling sick to get to their family doctor or medical centre before their symptoms get worse. Early treatment, particularly in children and older people, can prevent the need for hospital," Mr Gommans said.

He said older people living on their own often found it hard to get to a doctor, so neighbours, family and friends needed to be aware and check in on older people. "Even making sure they were eating and drinking well, made a big difference to not needing an emergency department visit or having to be admitted to hospital."


Dr Gommans said it was important not to visit anyone in hospital if you were sick. "Patients in hospital are much more vulnerable to picking up other people's bugs so we ask everyone not to visit if you are unwell."

Taradale GP, and Chief Medical Officer-Primary Care, Mark Peterson said many general practices had walk-in clinics for people without appointments and who needed to see a doctor that day. Accident and medical centres were also available and people could phone the practice nurse for advice.

Healthline, 0800 611 116, was available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Dr Peterson said some simple tips to help people stay well this winter were:

- Have the flu vaccine. The vaccine is available free for many people until the end of the month

- Stay away from work if you are unwell, and keep sick children at home to prevent winter bugs from spreading

- Keep warm, keep well

- Seek medical help early as cold temperatures can make some health problems, like asthma, get worse

- Keep hands regularly washed, especially if someone in your house is ill.

To find out about health in Hawke's Bay, including a list of GPs, pharmacies, dentists and other health providers, visit ourhealthhb.nz.