Respiratory illnesses fuelling winter ED hospital presentations at Bendigo Health

The emergency department at Bendigo Health. Picture: GLENN DANIELS
The emergency department at Bendigo Health. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

BENDIGO Health has yet to experience anything like last year’s flu season.

But deputy chief medical officer Dr Nathan Bushby said respiratory illnesses were common in patients presenting to the hospital’s emergency department this winter.

“We’ve seen a lot more children with respiratory illnesses and gastroenteritis,” Dr Bushby said.

He said adults were also presenting with respiratory infections, including pneumonia.

INFOGRAPHIC: Influenza cases in region, municipality and state

Authorities are aware of 92 cases of influenza in the Loddon Mallee region from January 1 – August 6, 31 of which were in Greater Bendigo.

By comparison, 343 cases of the flu were identified in the region in the same period last year, more than 100 of which were in Greater Bendigo.

Dr Bushby said a spike in flu cases was possible in September.

The flu season is at baseline levels with increasing activity, according to the state government.

Victoria’s most recent weekly influenza report states cases are within expected levels for this time of the season.

Three people were admitted to hospitals, statewide, in the past week with confirmed cases of influenza – slightly more than the previous week.

Dr Bushby said demand on the Bendigo Health emergency department this season had been ‘about average’, thus far.

The Bendigo Health deputy chief medical officer said a 10 – 20 per cent increase in patients was typical for this time of year.

But he said the proportion of staff away on sick leave had been ‘pretty high’.

"Our staff also suffer from the same illnesses,” Dr Bushby said.

He said the health care group had contingencies to manage the increased demand associated with winter, as well as seasonal increases in staff sickness.

Strategies to manage the increased demand included opening extra beds where available.

“Those with urgent problems will still get prompt care,” Dr Bushby said.

But he said patients with non-urgent conditions could typically wait at least 90 minutes for assistance.

Dr Bushby said wait times for patients with non-urgent conditions were comparable to Melbourne.

He encouraged people who did not believe they were in need of emergency health care to consider options such as after-hours GP services.

Dr Bushby said telephone-based services such as NURSE-ON-CALL could also provide advice. 

“If you think you’re getting sick, book in to see the GP,” he said.

NURSE-ON-CALL operates 24/7 and can be reached at 1300 60 60 24.

If you think your situation is an emergency, you should always call 000 or go to an emergency department at a hospital.

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