Tauranga Hospital's emergency department saw some of the lowest recorded patient numbers in years over the holiday period, but was nonetheless tested by a lot more serious cases.

Hospital co-ordinator Julie Williams said New Year's Eve was the quietest in many years and every day from December 29 to January 2 saw a drop in patient arrivals year-on-year.

There was also a drop in emergency department (ED) arrivals between the hours of midnight and 8am on three of those five days, compared with a year ago.

However, Tauranga Hospital's ED clinical director, Dr Derek Sage, said the patient numbers did not tell the whole story.


"There were a lot more seriously ill patients seen this year, and these are more demanding in terms of the numbers of staff required to treat them and the amount of time taken to treat them."

Dr Sage said staff were busier in terms of workload compared with previous years.

"For example, I was called in twice when not rostered on to help the teams out over the New Year period," he said.

"At times the emergency department was tested, but the staff there and throughout Tauranga Hospital coped admirably, a testament to their expertise and professionalism."

He said he would not be reading too much into this year's lower patient figures, which did not establish any sort of pattern and were not statistically significant.

"Sometimes you just get these anomalies."

Meanwhile, Williams said the busiest days this holiday season were December 1 and December 2, with 194 (down 12 from last year) and 195 (down six) arrivals respectively – 40 (down four) and 33 (same) between midnight and 8am.

New Year's Eve saw a steady number of people coming into the ED, with 40 arrivals from midnight to 8am on January 1. That number was down four from the year before.


"Forecasts based on previous years predicted 50-plus people coming in during the same time period," Williams said.

"Another difference from forecasts was that people attending were an older age group.

"Predictably, most of the attendances were alcohol-related."

She said there were 18 admissions to Tauranga Hospital overnight on New Year's Eve.

It was business as usual on January 2, Williams said, the day of the Bay Dreams music festival in Mount Maunganui, but nothing unanticipated happened.

"Again there were a number of intoxicated people and others under the influence, a few of whom had attended Bay Dreams event. All these patients were treated and discharged."

However, January 2 did see multiple high acuity patients, triage 1 and triage 2 patients.

"These are people who are acutely unwell and have to be attended to immediately, or within five minutes of arriving at ED," Williams said.

"Among the medical issues were heart attacks, head injuries, breathing problems, or bleeding, some of whom needed resuscitation."

This year saw a total of 167 people enter Tauranga Hospital's ED on New Year's Eve and 194 on New Year's Day.

To put those numbers into further context, 2017/18 had 180 and 206 arrivals on those two days and 2016/17 had 169 and 205.

The last time there was a lower number on New Year's Day was 2015/2016, when there was 191 arrivals. There was 175 on New Year's Eve that year.

Tauranga Hospital ED daily attendance (and arrivals from midnight to 8am)

December 29

2018/19 - 150 (21)

2017/18 - 189 (32)

December 30
2018/19 - 160 (30)
2017/18 - 191 (26)

December 31
2018/19 - 167 (22)
2017/18 - 180 (37)

January 1
2018/19 - 194 (40)
2017/18 - 206 (44)

January 2
2018/19 - 195 (33)
2017/18 - 201 (33)