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Preparing for your hospital stay

If you are preparing for a hospital stay, there are some steps you can take to help ensure the logistics are in hand while you are in hospital and on your return home, so you can focus on getting well.

There is plenty to think about when you are preparing for a stay in hospital.

It is best to arrange as much as possible before you are admitted to hospital, including the preparations for when you are ready to return home. This will make the paperwork easier, and ensure you are not waiting in hospital longer than you need to while things get sorted out.

Most importantly, it will also give you peace of mind that all the logistics are in hand, so you can focus on getting well.

COVID-19 and Surgery 

If you are having surgery and have had COVID-19, or get it while you are waiting for surgery, please get in contact with your surgical team right away.  

There is evidence that COVID-19 infection near the time of an operation can increase complications such as pneumonia and blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolus).  

Your surgical team need to know when your COVID-19 infection happened so that they can take this into account when balancing the risk of delaying the surgery with the risk of complications that could arise because of your COVID-19 infection. 

So that you can get the best care and treatment possible it is very important that if you are scheduled for surgery and you get COVID-19, you call your surgical team immediately. The team can then discuss the best way forward with you. 

Most operations can still safely take place following 4 to 8 weeks after recovery from COVID-19. Your surgical team will be able to discuss what is best for you in your individual situation.  

Please remember the following: 

  • If you have had COVID-19, tell your surgical team immediately 

  • If you catch COVID-19 while waiting for your surgery, tell your surgical team immediately 



What to bring with you to hospital

Everyone's individual needs are different, and you may receive specific advice relating to your personal circumstances, but generally you should pack:

  • Warm comfortable nightwear, dressing gown, slippers and comfortable day clothes, including shoes and socks. Bring any equipment that you use to help dress yourself.
  • Toiletries, brush and comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, shaving gear, sanitary pads, tampons and tissues.
  • Any equipment that aids you, i.e. glasses, hearing aids, walking sticks or frames etc.
  • Any medications you are taking.

All personal belongings brought into the hospital by you are at your own risk. This includes any personal items. Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora - Southern will not accept responsibility for any items that go missing while you are in hospital. Please ensure items are named where possible and arrange for your clothes to be laundered.

Care for dependent loved ones at home

If you are coming to the hospital for a planned operation, you may need to make arrangements  for any loved ones you care for who will be home alone while you are in the hospital or may need extra help while you are recovering.

If you already have people coming into your home to help with cleaning or personal care tasks, please talk with your care provider in the first instance.

If your loved one has no care currently in place, please see your GP to ask for a referral so that care or planned respite can be arranged. You need to do this early as the wait can be six to eight weeks.

Also, talk with family and friends to see what support they are able to offer both during your hospital stay and while you recover.



Please advise medical staff of any medicines, drugs, ointments, vitamins and/ or natural remedies you are currently taking. Your medications can be stored and returned on discharge.

Use of medicines that are not approved in New Zealand

The manufacturers of a medicine must obtain approval from Medsafe (a government agency) if they want to market their medicine in NZ. They have to show the medicine is safe to use, works for the illness being treated, what the side effects are, and that it has been made to a high standard. 

Your doctor may prescribe a medicine that is not approved in NZ for the illness you have. This is sometimes referred to as ‘off-label’ use. Your doctor will have recommended this medicine because they feel it is the best choice for your illness and there is information showing that it is safe. 

Why would a medicine be used in a situation where it is not approved?

There are several reasons:

  • The medicine may have been approved in NZ in the past but due to low usage the manufacturer has decided it is too expensive to maintain the approval. The medicine may be widely used in other countries. 
  • The medicine may already be approved for one illness (e.g. amitriptyline for depression) but doctors find that it works very well for another illness (e.g. amitriptyline for nerve pain).
  • Because studies were not done in children, a medicine may only have approval in adults but it is commonly used for children as well. 
  • The medicine may be approved to be given in one way (e.g. by injection) but it is then found to be useful when given in a different way (e.g. by mouth).
  • It may be too difficult or expensive to do the required studies on the medicine.
How will I know that the medicine is not approved for my illness? 

Your doctor should tell you. If you read the information leaflet that comes with the medicine, you may notice that the information does not apply to your illness.

If you are concerned, talk it over with your doctor or pharmacist. They may be able to give you a special information leaflet about the medicine so please ask. 


Preparing for surgery

The surgical specialist and surgical admissions team will tell you how to prepare for your surgery as all patients are different, for example when to stop eating or drinking.

If you get sick close to the date of your surgery please let the department concerned know as this may mean that your surgery has to be postponed until you are feeling better. If you arrive and admissions determine you to be unfit for surgery, your surgery will be postponed.

Sometimes we may need to postpone your booking at short notice. This can happen if there are a high number of emergencies admitted to the hospital. We will do everything possible to avoid postponing treatment and procedures but if this does occur we will provide you with an alternative booking.

Advance Directives

We will always discuss your medical treatment options with you if we can. If we cannot, e.g. because you are unconscious or have become too unwell, we will try to make the best decision for you. If we have a good chance of saving your life and restoring you to good health we will always do everything possible.

If the outcome is less certain, then doctors and nurses will use their judgement to decide for you what most people would want in the circumstances. You can make specific health care choices in advance, however, by completing an advance directive. An advance directive greatly assists staff by giving them a clear idea of what you want in certain serious situations, should you become too unwell to make decisions.

If you would like to include an advance directive in your clinical record, our Patient Affairs staff are available to assist you. If possible, always discuss things with someone you trust, who can convey your wishes in case of doubt.


We need to know what needs you have so these can be met while you are in hospital. This includes any involvement or care given by a carer or family (whānau).



  • Plan ahead to arrange travel and any accommodation you might need before you are admitted to hospital or attend an appointment. The National Travel Assistance programme may be able to assist.
  • From planning your meals while you are recovering at home to ensuring you have the support you need, it is worth thinking ahead before you go into hospital, to make sure everything is in place when you need it.

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