South Australia’s code yellow emergency across the health system has been extended for metropolitan and peri-urban hospitals, but will be lifted for country hospitals this afternoon.

The emergency was declared a week ago, with surging demand blamed on an increase in respiratory illnesses such as COVID and the flu.

It means most non-urgent elective surgeries were cancelled across the state.

“Many of our own health staff themselves have been hit with those different viruses and conditions as well, so it’s clearly a time of pressure and we thank those staff for their hard work across the system,” Health Minister Chris Picton said.

Mr Picton said restrictions would be lifted entirely for elective surgeries in country hospitals from 5pm today.

“Anyone who had to have their surgery postponed who was on a non-urgent list during that time will have their surgery rescheduled as soon as possible,” he said.

Chris Picton says the health system has faced “unprecedented pressure” in recent weeks.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Meanwhile, SA Health chief executive Robyn Lawrence said restrictions on metro and peri-urban hospitals would be reviewed on a daily basis.

However, she said elective surgeries were not performed over weekends so would not be resumed until at least after the long weekend.

“As we move into the long weekend, I would like to take the opportunity to remind people that if they don’t require urgent emergency care there are alternative options available to you: our urgent care centres will be open over the weekend as well as our 24-hour pharmacies,” she said.

She also urged people who required advice to contact Health Direct.

Mr Picton said the government was trying to address problems within the hospital system by adding extra beds.

“We know that one of the key blockages that we have is that our emergency departments have become full of patients who need a ward bed but there’s no ward beds for them to go to, that’s why we’re building hundreds of extra hospital beds,” he said.

The opposition says Val (pictured) was forced to wait 10 hours to receive emergency care at an Adelaide hospital.(Supplied)

Opposition says situation “unacceptable”

Meanwhile, the opposition has criticised the government for what it says is “poor decision making” and outcomes in health.

It said an 84-year-old woman, Val, waited 10 hours to receive emergency care at the Lyell McEwin on Wednesday.

Val’s daughter Sue, who didn’t want to reveal her last name for privacy reasons, said her mother visited her GP at 9am on Wednesday before being sent via ambulance to hospital.

Sue said her mum arrived at the Lyell McEwin around noon but was not seen by medical staff until just before 10pm.

As she waited, Val slept across waiting room chairs.

Her photo was taken by a fellow patient, with Sue sharing the image with the opposition.

“Something definitely needs fixing there,” Sue said.

But she added that she was a “big fan” of Premier Peter Malinauskas.

The government says it is working to add extra beds to reduce strain on hopsitals across the state.(ABC News)

“This is not his fault,” Sue said.

“He’s inherited it and he’s working on it.”

Sue said the premier may not be fully aware of how serious the problems are.

“He doesn’t understand or know… I don’t think it hurts to give it a push,” she said.

Sue praised staff at the Lyell McEwin for the treatment of her mum once she was seen, and was positive about improvements in ambulance response times.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” she said.

Sue said Val remains in the “triage” section of the Lyell McEwin as they don’t have a ward bed available for her.

Education Shadow Minister, John Gardner said the government had “failed” South Australians.

“The promise was to fix ramping, the promise was to reduce ramping levels and transfer of care data to pre-2018 levels, and that is what Labor has spectacularly failed to do,” he said.

“We have world class doctors, we have some world class facilities, we have world class health care professionals, but when elective surgeries are cancelled indefinitely, that is not a world class outcome… it is absolutely unacceptable.”

Opposition spokesperson Matt Cowdrey says the government’s health spending is “unsustainable”.

“We have the reality of record funds going into the health system but record ramping, enough is enough,” he said.