Winter ills impacting health services

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

Since the beginning of June, there has been a significant increase in people with symptoms of viral illnesses coming to Gisborne Hospital, says Head of Emergency Department Dr Page Hudson. “We are seeing a number of people with a viral illness causing aching bodies and upset stomachs. Antibiotics will not help with a virus. Lots of fluids and bed rest are the best treatment.”

“We are also seeing a number of people testing positive for influenza A. It is very early in the winter ills season to see that.”

Influenza is more than just a ‘bad cold’ says Medical Officer of Health Dr Bruce Duncan. 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, especially if you are pregnant, elderly or have a chronic illness.“

As usual for this time of year hospital beds are filing up says Director of Nursing Serita Karauria. It has been very up and down. Some weeks the hospital is very full and other weeks it is a bit quieter.

The larger number of people coming to Gisborne Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED) is putting extra demand on staff and services across the system.

 “It is important that people remember that ED is for emergencies; people who are facing life-threatening, sudden or acute illness or severe trauma, says Dr Hudson. “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.”

“If you come to ED when you are not acutely unwell you may be in for a long wait. We apologise for this but it is important that 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 we will see you but there can be a significant wait.”

If you are not acutely unwell see your family doctor or Medical Centre. It is free for children under 14 to see their GP. That is the same at any hour of the day or across the weekend. All GPs offer an after-hours service till 8pm.

One thing that should always be checked out in children and young people is a sore throat. Sore throats should be swabbed and checked by a nurse at your Medical Centre. All Medical Centre’s offer this service free for people under 19 - without an appointment.  Untreated strep throat can lead to rheumatic fever which can do permanent damage to hearts. Māori and Pacific children and young people are at the highest risk of getting rheumatic fever, especially if they are staying in crowded or cold, damp homes. If you are living in a cold or damp home assistance may be available to you or your landlord to improve insulation and heating.

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

Sick people should stay at home to help prevent the spread of illness.

Other things to help:

  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Keep your distance from infected people if you are healthy, and from well people, if you are sick
  • Stay healthy by eating good food, drinking lots of water and getting plenty of exercise and rest
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough
  • Look out for your friends, family and neighbours

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