The Taranaki District Health Board is is considering using security cameras to monitor patients, as increasing numbers stretch nursing resources.
Many of the patients are elderly and need round-the-clock observation, adding to Taranaki Base Hospital's operating deficit of more than $4 million.
General manager Joy Farley says the hospital is looking at how it can manage patients' needs better, including the use of closed circuit cameras which could be monitored at the nurses' station.
Ms Farley says the cameras could be very useful in helping to care for some patients.
"Often when they come in they become confused or disorientated or have an event, which means they require really close nursing monitoring."
She says in April, nine nurses were needed to provide one-on-one nursing care.
Ms Farley says the idea of using cameras would need a feasibility study before it could be taken further.
The Nurses Organisation says it is not opposed to the idea of using cameras to monitor patients - but there are potential pitfalls.
Chief executive Geoff Annals says using cameras would only work if nursing staff have enough time to monitor them.
He says the Nurses Organisation will be watching to make sure staff are consulted about the idea.