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Plenty of confidence at near-capacity hospital

Wairarapa Hospital is operating at almost maximum capacity, but health bosses are confident the system is well placed to cope.

With winter illnesses putting pressure on hospital resources, senior managers at the hospital said a range of plans have been activated to make sure patients get the care they needed.

Early on Monday [12 June], there were a total of six inpatient beds available across all ward areas, out of a total of 73. With this level of occupancy, the hospital was 92 per cent full.

There were an additional five assessment beds in Wairarapa ED available to use.

At the ED earlier this week, 71 per cent of presentations were seen and treated within six hours.

The number of covid patients in the hospital was sharply down on the peak of the pandemic, with just one covid patient on Monday [12 June].

Kieran McCann, interim lead hospital and health services Te Whatu Ora Wairarapa, said the hospital had already been running reasonably high in terms of capacity for many weeks. That’s not uncommon for us,” he said.

“It’s a challenge, and it needs us to work in much more flexible ways, which we do. We’ve always got concerns about seasonal pressures.

“We’ve got plans in place. We’ve had seasonal surge response plans for many years. It’s become challenging in the current environment with covid, and the legacy of that. I would suggest the hospital is well-placed to respond to that,”McCann said.

“We have learned a lot of lessons from covid, and we’ve become much more effective at responding to the challenges of covid. As a health system, we all have.”

McCann said there are additional plans to deal with major incidents.

“In times where you get lots of pressure, with a large number of presentations, we have escalation plans where we can flex our capacity.

“For a major trauma incident, there is a specific response around that.”

McCann said peak demand at the hospital is managed in a variety of flexible ways, including expedited discharge for people ready to go home, and support packages to assist people to manage at home.

“There’s a lot of work around how the flow works in a hospital.”

McCann said it is important people seek the right treatment from the right provider at the right time.

Dr Mark Beehre, chief medical officer for Te Whatu Ora Wairarapa, spoke about the type of symptoms that would typically be appropriate for treatment at the ED.

“If you’ve got acute, severe symptoms. If you’ve got symptoms like chest pains, shortness of breath or a broken limb, severe pain of any description, or an extraordinarily high fever, those are the sorts of things that people should come to the emergency department for,” he said.

McCann said people who are unsure about whether to use the ED can consider ringing Healthline in advance, but calling 111 us the appropriate thing to do in an emergency.

Beehre agreed.

“The sorts of things you would call 111 for would be severe chest pain, severe shortness of breath, or if someone has symptoms that seem to be those of a stroke,” he said.

For less serious problems, people can call Healthline, which is a free 24-hour service, see their own GP, got to an after-hours medical centre, or even visit a pharmacy.

“Generally, advice from a pharmacy would be for minor symptoms, “ Beehre said, citing a less severe cough as an example.

    More information about Healthline is available at the Ministry of Health’s website:


Public Interest Journalism funded through NZOnAir

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