Elderly people with minor ailments are being "conveniently" left at hospital over Labour Weekend by "granny-dumping" families heading away on holiday, a doctor says.
Concerned medical specialists say the patients may not be so unwell that they need to be in hospital, but may not be well enough to be sent home alone. The ditched pensioners can use up hospital staff time by having to remain in an observation area for many hours.
A trainee specialist at Auckland City Hospital highlighted the problem on Twitter on Saturday.
"Long weekend = many frail old people conveniently dropped off at hospital without acute medical problems because family going away," wrote Dr Sudhvir Singh, a registrar in general medicine.
Dr Singh declined to comment further when contacted by the Herald.
Grey Power president Terry King said he would be appalled but not surprised if granny dumping was occurring this weekend.
"I think it's totally irresponsible. It's really difficult to understand families who'd do this sort of thing."
However, an Auckland City Hospital spokesman said its duty manager was unaware of any elderly patients being abandoned there by their family for the weekend.
On Saturday, the emergency department saw fewer patients than usual.
Waikato Hospital staff have regularly observed granny dumping at the start of long weekends, normal weekends, and in the Christmas holidays.
The emergency department's clinical director, Dr John Bonning, yesterday spoke of one case reported to him that stood out in the last summer holidays.
"In January, someone was driven up in a nice, flash car and [the person accompanying her said], 'We are going away and here's Granny'. She may have had minor medical ailments, but they weren't very significant.
"We look after these people. We are never frustrated and disappointed with the elderly," Dr Bonning said.
His message to families was to plan ahead around holiday weekends and the approaching Christmas period.
Medical Association chairman Dr Mark Peterson said he was unconvinced that "granny dumping" occurred in the way it was said to.
"I suspect it's more likely to be due to the perceived unavailability of primary care."
Labour Party health spokeswoman Ruth Dyson said granny dumping was disgusting and unnecessary, as several agencies offered free help to families unable to look after elderly relatives.