PEOPLE with coughs, colds and other non-urgent conditions are being urged to reconsider visiting the hospital emergency department, to free them up for those who need immediate medical attention.
Tamworth hospital acting general manager Brad Hansen said winter saw emergency departments across the region become even busier, with influenza, respiratory illnesses and gastro causing extra strain this season.
He said the hospital worked on a triage system to ensure those who needed the most urgent treatment were seen first.
Those with minor ailments wait longer.
"We never say 'don't come to emergency'. We're proud of our role in caring for the community," Mr Hansen said.
"But in such a busy season, it's worth a reminder that people with coughs, colds or other minor conditions may not be seen as quickly as they hope."
Those with non-urgent illnesses have been asked to consider making an appointment with a GP, calling the healthdirect hotline on 1800 022 222 for advice from a registered nurse, or calling GP Access 1300 130 147 to find an after-hours GP.
Emergency departments also won't provide prescription renewals or doctor's certificates.
"Everyone who finds alternative options for minor conditions is helping ensure our emergency department staffs are focused on what they're there to do - save lives," Mr Hansen said.