Winter ills impacting health services

12 July 2017

Dr Johan Peters from Gisborne Hospital ED and Dr Simon Spenceley from 3 Rivers

Dr Johan Peters from Gisborne Hospital ED and Dr Simon Spenceley from 3 Rivers Medical.

Winter ills are starting to have a real impact on health services throughout Tairāwhiti.

Dr Simon Spenceley from Three Rivers Medical is seeing a significant increase in people with influenza. “The ‘flu’ (influenza) is more than just a ‘bad cold’. It is easily passed on to other people and can be a serious illness that is sometimes fatal. Your best defence is an annual flu vaccination. Nearly 10,000 people in Tairāwhiti have a received a flu vaccination so far this winter. It is still available from your GP and some pharmacies. It is free for all people over 65, those with high-risk medical conditions, and for pregnant women.”

Dr Spenceley has also seen an increase in strep throat infections over the past couple of weeks. This is backed up by Sandi French from Hauora Tairāwhiti’s Well Child services. “There is a lot of strep throat around at the moment. It is important that everyone with a sore throat gets their throat swabbed and checked. All medical centres offer this service for free for people under 19. Untreated strep throat can lead to rheumatic fever which can do permanent damage to hearts. This is easily avoided by taking a 10-day course of antibiotics. Māori and Pacific children and young people are at the highest risk of getting rheumatic fever, especially if they are living or staying in crowded households.

Gisborne Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED) is seeing a larger than usual number of people as are all the General Practices. This is putting extra demand on staff and services across the system.

Many of the people coming through ED need to be admitted to the hospital. With wards getting close to reaching full capacity, finding a bed can be a real challenge at times, says Clinical Director Dr Johan Peters.

“It is important that people remember that ED is for emergencies; people who are facing life-threatening, sudden or acute illness or a severe trauma. This may be a suspected heart attack, serious head injury, serious accident or suspected stroke. When someone’s life is at risk always phone 111 for an ambulance.”

“People who come to ED when they are not acutely unwell may be in for a long wait. We see people in the order of the seriousness of their condition; not in the order that they arrive. So if your condition is not assessed as being urgent there can be a significant wait to be seen.”

“If you are not acutely unwell it is a much better option to go and see your family doctor or medical centre. It is free for children under 13 to see their GP no matter what time of the day or day of the week and all GPs offer an after-hours service till 8pm.”

People who are unwell and are not sure where they should go are encouraged to call Healthline 24/7 on 0800 611 116 for free advice from a trained registered nurse.

Note Children under 13 years are free at any time if enrolled with a medical centre. Casual patients under 13 are only funded out of hours. If a casual child visits during a weekday 8am-6pm – there is a charge.

The exception for this is ACC clients which are fully funded at all times.