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Hawke’s Bay Hospital Extremely Busy

Hawke’s Bay Hospital has postponed some elective surgery and its restricted visiting policy remains in place as RSV, (respiratory syncytial virus), presentations continue in children and increase in adults.

Hawke’s Bay Hospital currently has 27 children in its paediatric ward, mostly with respiratory illness. Other acute areas such as ICU and the Emergency Department remain very busy. Only one infant was needing ICU level care, today.

These numbers fluctuate continually as patients are discharged and others admitted.

Chief Medical and Dental Officer Robin Whyman said RSV was now affecting adults especially older people or those with underlying health conditions. While adults mostly tended to have milder RSV symptoms, it could cause severe illness in adults with underlying lung disease or a weakened immune system, he said.

Staffing of the hospital had also been impacted as there was a lot of staff sickness and the district health board was calling in all casual staff to support the busy wards and acute areas, Dr Whyman said.

“We have made the difficult decision to postpone eight elective surgeries today, and will review this again tomorrow to see if further surgeries during the week need to be postponed, to help reduce pressure on the hospital.”

Dr Whyman said he understood urgent care and general practices were also busy but it was important for people who were sick and progressively getting worse to get medical help early, to help prevent a hospital admission.

“It’s very important that parents and caregivers keep children warm and at home and away from other children if they are sick. Children who had younger siblings or babies at home should be kept away from early childcare centres and kōhanga reo where possible.

“The hand-washing, self-isolation and social distancing families followed so well during last year’s COVID-19 lockdown are a good guide to the care we need to control this RSV outbreak,” he said.

Pauses with breathing can be a symptom of severe RSV illness in babies and signs of this, especially in the very young meant they should be seen by a doctor urgently. People should also check in on older neighbours, friends and family to check they were okay.

Signs of when to seek medical attention urgently in children:

Visiting - Hawke’s Bay Hospital and Wairoa Hospital:

No visitors will be allowed in

Parents/guardians are exempt from the restrictions

Visitors to any area of our facilities may be asked to wear a mask or other protective wear.


What is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial (sin-city-al) virus (RSV) is a common virus that causes respiratory infections and is a frequent cause of the common cold.

RSV can affect people of all ages. Most cases of RSV are mild and can be treated with rest at home. Most children aged under two years have been infected by RSV at some stage, and it is possible to get RSV over and over again. It can occasionally cause more serious infection in young or premature infants. It is more common in the winter months.

What are the signs and symptoms?

After exposure to the virus, symptoms may develop around five days later. RSV in children is normally associated with mild to moderate cold-like symptoms, which generally last between eight and 15 days.

RSV is a common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under one year old.

How is RSV spread?

RSV spreads either via direct contact (e.g. hands that have been sneezed on and not washed) or by being coughed or sneezed on by someone who has the infection. RSV is very contagious and can live on surfaces for several hours, and on unwashed hands for 30–60 minutes.

It can be difficult to stop the spread of RSV; however, practicing good hygiene will help avoid passing any virus onto others. Children with RSV are usually infectious (able to pass the virus onto others) for eight days from the start of their symptoms.


There is currently no vaccine to prevent RSV, and no specific treatment other than supportive care while the immune system controls the virus.

• Avoid exposure. If you are feeling unwell with symptoms that resemble a cold or flu (e.g. runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever, muscle aches) please discuss with staff before visiting the unit.

• Wash your hands frequently. Teach your family the importance of hand-washing. Alcohol gel is effective at killing the virus on hands.

• Keep things clean. Make sure kitchen and bathroom countertops are clean. Discard used tissues right away.

• Don't share drinking glasses with others. Use your own glass or disposable cups when you or someone else is sick. Label each person's cup.

• Don't smoke. Babies who are exposed to tobacco smoke have a higher risk of getting RSV and potentially more-severe symptoms. If you do smoke, never do so inside the house or car.

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