WA's emergency department doctors have accused the State Government of funding a misleading campaign by warning people with minor winter illnesses not to clog up busy hospitals.
It came as health officials reported 2035 confirmed flu cases in WA this year and 11 deaths, including a child under the age of five.
The Government launched a TV campaign earlier this week to convince people with coughs and colds not to go to emergency departments.
But the WA faculty of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine said claims emergency departments were being overrun by people with coughs and colds were untrue, arguing such patients accounted for less than 5 per cent of cases.
Instead, the demand was largely caused by record numbers of sick and elderly patients, some with serious complications such as pneumonia who ended up needing to be admitted to hospital.
The college said the campaign was glossing over the real problem, which was a major lack of hospital beds in Perth. This caused emergency departments to become congested, which delayed new patients being assessed and caused ambulance ramping.
Emergency medicine doctor and former Australian Medical Association WA president Dave Mountain said the campaign could discourage sick people from going to emergency departments and this could have serious consequences.
"We see a lot of people coming in with flu-related illness who are very sick, and they're not people needing to be given a tissue to blow their nose," he said.
"They're coming in with pneumonia or because their heart failure has worsened, or they're frail and elderly and can't cope with a flu-like illness. People can become so sick they don't know if they just have a dose of the flu or have raging pneumonia."
Dr Mountain said while patients were advised to see their GP where possible, sometimes it was hard to get in straight away, and it was dangerous to suggest people feeling very unwell stay home.