Hawke's Bay doctors are working feverishly as winter flu and injuries overwhelm the region's medical centres and the hospital's Emergency Department.
Acting Chief Medical and Dental Officer Dr Colin Hutchison said Hawke's Bay Hospital had been stretched by a wide variety of illnesses and injuries.
On Monday, July 2, the Emergency Department experienced its third-equal busiest day since December 2015 with 165 presentations (resulting in 62 admissions).
The average daily rate of admissions from ED is about 40.
Monday, July 15 also saw an increased number of presentations, with 163, resulting in 70 admissions.
Hutchison said winter viral illnesses had well and truly arrived in Hawke's Bay and people starting to feel unwell were encouraged to seek early advice from their doctor, pharmacist or Healthline.
"Our teams are working incredibly hard to see people as soon as possible, but please remember that the Emergency Department is the place to go for life-threatening, urgent treatment.
"People with minor injuries or illness, such as colds, can expect to wait for long periods to be seen as patients needing urgent care are always prioritised."
The DHB was doing what it could to stem the flow at the hospital during peak periods, Hutchison said.
Totara Health general manager Shane Gorst said a busy season for the general population is "an even busier season for the parts of our population that are generally under-served in terms of health".
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"For a lot of our community, the flu season is exacerbated by issues of poor housing and other challenges.
"If your kids have respiratory issues or you are in a house that is not very well insulated then it makes it just that bit more likely that your kids are going to get sick, or you might get sick.
"And when you do, it can be more serious if you've got other things that complicate that."
Gorst said Totara Health had anticipated a "reasonably busy season" because Australia has had a "bad run" and generally speaking, New Zealand tended to follow suit.
They started seeing cases a lot earlier this year, during late-February/early March. That has "accelerated over the last couple of months".
"It just comes down to how you manage that demand. But we are pretty used to it, this time of year is always going to be busy."
Like most practices, they run an acute service which provides on-the-day care in the form of a nurse or doctor for anyone who calls in the morning.
Hastings Health Centre medical director for urgent care Dr Pauline Teong said it was routinely seeing an unusually high 100 patients or more a day since the start of July.
"It has certainly been difficult and our staff (whom we appreciate very much) have been working extra in order to help out."
Clinical medical officer of primary medical care and Taradale GP, Dr Mark Peterson said Ministry of Health data suggest that 2019 is a relatively average winter for influenza infections.
Peterson said the uptake of the influenza vaccine in Hawke's Bay has been "very good".
Despite there being a shortage of influenza vaccine in the later part of the usual vaccination period, the total number of influenza vaccines given this year is higher than in recent years.
"As is common at this time of year, primary care providers out in the community are seeing many people for influenza-like-illness, as well as a myriad of other winter ills-related ailments."
Health Hawke's Bay chief executive Wayne Woolrich said General Practices are always prepared for the increase in winter illness during this time of year.
Health HB is available to respond to requests of support from the primary care sector, however, these are "very rare".
Woolrich said there are many health care options available to people, including pharmacies, who all aim to give timely, quality care and health advice.
"Most respiratory illnesses do not require medical attention but a persistently elevated temperature or any shortness of breath should be assessed by a General Practice doctor or nurse," he said.
What to do:
If you need medical care and it's not an emergency, the best thing to do is to call your general practice 24/7. If they are not open, you will be automatically diverted to their after-hours provider. If it's an emergency, always call 111. Healthline is also another good option where people can call 24/7 to speak with a registered nurse – 0800 611 116.