Local health services are being over-run indicating high levels of illness across the Whanganui region.
That was the message from the Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) general manager of service and business planning, Tracey Schiebli, at the WDHB Committee meeting on Friday.
Daily presentations to the Emergency Department (ED), by volume, were 25 per cent higher than the same time period last year.
And Whanganui Accident and Medical (WAM) have increased in volumes by 1366 in 2017 compared with 2016.
In the last two years, July 2015 to July 2017, high priority patients have increased from 61 per cent to 72 per cent of total presentations.
Ms Schiebli said the health board have been hearing increasing reports about the difficulty for patients to access timely General Practice (GP) appointments in Whanganui.
"It is not clear whether this situation is the result of particularly bad winter in terms of illness in the community, or whether it is more of a system issue of the pressure facing our primary care sector."
WDHB chief executive Julie Patterson reported in a Ministry of Health briefing paper dated August 3, 2017, that conversation had been initiated with both Primary Health Organisations (PHOs) in Whanganui to gather data on GP wait times, GP to patient ratios and practice opening hours.
Ms Schiebli said people were ringing up their GP to book an appointment and nothing was available that day so they were visiting Whanganui Accident and Medical (WAM).
"People want things now and there is a reluctantly to even ring their GP in the first instance because they are unlikely to be seen that same day."
Ms Schiebli said there were also high levels of illness among staff as many had been ill for long periods of time.
"Illness amongst staff has put pressure on resources in acute and non-acute areas across the hospital," Ms Schiebli said.
Board member Whanganui Regional Health Network chief executive Judith MacDonald said it was symptoms of how the community were not getting support from family so they sought advice from professionals.
"We are seeing social issues impacting on our health system and a fast-growing demand in elderly community seeking immediate care."
Mrs MacDonald said more information on things like treating a cold or flu needed to be available around the community.
"Perhaps we could put info sheets in the supermarkets to people understand what medicine they should be taking."