Ninetyseven patients, three full shifts of staff ... not everyone's Christmas Day was spent at home with family and loved-ones.

But at Whanganui Hospital at least they had candy.

"It's the one day of the year it's allowed," laughed Russell Simpson.

The didtrict health board chief executive and his family helped spread good cheer and seasons greetings yesterday, handing out treats amongst staff and patients alike.

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"It's still a busy day for us," said Simpson. "But it was important to ackowledge and to let staff know they're appreciated."