The Emergency Department at Tauranga Hospital is for just that – emergencies.
That's the message Tauranga Hospital wants to reinforce going into winter as more people start turning up at the Emergency Department with non-emergency medical conditions.
Up to 187 people were seen at the emergency department in one day recently – a significant increase on the 140-150 patients that are seen on a usual day.
Clinical director Dr Derek Sage says up to a third of those turning up at the emergency department are presenting with non-emergency conditions, including cold and flu symptoms.
“That's obviously affected by time of day, day of the week and what other alternatives are available to them, but many could be seen by someone who could do an as good, if not better job than us.”
Derek says after-hours medical advice is now only a phone call away in Tauranga since the introduction of the Homecare Medical teletriage service.
You simply call your GP's phone number and you are automatically redirected to a service staffed by registered nurses.
“They will basically pick up what your need is and make a suggestion of where you can go to meet that need. It's not designed to stop everybody coming to the emergency department. We're just trying to get people the most appropriate care.”
Derek says emergency departments are “stressful” places to sit around and wait in and, despite clinicians' best efforts to prevent the spread of infection, people can pick up other peoples' germs in the waiting room.
“People will cough and sneeze and these things are airborne. They will settle on things around them like door handles.”
Derek says the best thing everyone can do to avoid a visit to the emergency department this winter is to get a flu vaccination.
“This will both reduce the chance of having a bout of flu and also, when enough people have had it, reduce the spread of it among the population. It's a very simple measure that you can do for yourself and your community.”