WINTER has officially set in, and hospitals across the New England have boosted staff numbers to cope in the busy period.
Hunter New England Health clinical services director Elizabeth Grist said the winter months are some of the busiest in local hospitals.
“Our priority is ensuring our patients receive the best care as quickly as possible,” she said.
“We have added extra staff to take the pressure off the emergency department as much as possible and provide a backup for any workers who may fall ill during winter.”
Hunter New England LHD experienced a significant rise in demand in the 2017 winter period.
Annual vaccination is the best protection against the flu, but the following steps also help prevent the spread of influenza:
- · Cough and sneeze into your elbow
- · Clean your hands
- · Stay home when sick.
From July to September alone, more than 110,000 people presented to emergency departments across the district, an increase of over 11,100 or more than 11 per cent on the previous year.
Ms Grist reminded the community to visit their GP for treatment of less serious illnesses to ensure emergency departments are freed-up for emergencies.
To help take the pressure off the emergency department and to provide more appropriate services for non-emergency patients, the district has increased appointments for its respiratory clinic and after-hours GP services across the district.
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“The district has invested in developing and implementing better systems to monitor and manage patient numbers,” Ms Grist said.
“This allows staff to monitor patterns of patient admissions so they can predict when they may need to open additional beds to help avoid delays.”
The state government is spending a record $22.75 million on state-wide immunisation programs in 2017-18.
This includes $3.5 million for free flu shots to children up to five years of age and a $1.75 million immunisation and influenza prevention campaign.
The district has been working with the Primary Health Network and Residential Aged Care Facilities to help them prepare and educate staff and patients about preventative measures to stay healthy during winter.
Hunter New England LHD has strongly encouraged its own staff to get their flu shots and so far more than 11,100 LHD staff have been vaccinated.
NSW Health has made the flu vaccine mandatory for staff who work in Intensive Care Units and cancer, transplant, neonatal and birth/labour wards in the state’s public health facilities, to protect our most vulnerable from the flu.