After hours funding plea heard
West Otago Health has secured funding for emergency care and after hours services.
West Otago Health Trust at Tapanui has accepted an offer of $25,000 from the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) to fund the hours of 8am to 10pm for urgent primary care and emergency care after hours.
The new funding model would start on June 1, West Otago Health Trust chairman Allister Body said.
While it was estimated that West Otago Health would still be subsiding the service by about $1000, he was pleased with the outcome of recent talks with the SDHB and primary health care providers WellSouth.
‘‘This is a huge win. It would have been nice to have 24/7 cover but you’ve got to be pragmatic. Having the  hours that are funded is better than nothing.’’
In March, the Tapanui-based medical facility reached crisis point because it had been paying for its own after hours service after funding was cut in June.
Since then, it has been providing a service from 5pm to 9am (16 hours) at a cost of $76,660 for oncall staff, which included weekdays, weekends and public holidays; an expense that was proving unsustainable for the small rural health centre.
The situation arose in 2015, when West Otago was moved into the Gore Health hub for acute and emergency care.
However, the distance that the majority of people had to travel to the eastern Southland centre - more than the recommended hour for many - proved to be impractical and unacceptable to the West Otago Health Trust.
With increasing demands within clinic hours and after hours, the health trust members made the decision to fund the after hours service, because they feared the outcome for patients without it.
While it was a good feeling to have ‘‘come out of the cold’’ after 12 months of no funding, Body still had concerns for the 10 hours that wouldn’t be covered in the new funding model.
‘‘I’m still a bit uncomfortable with what happens between 10pm and 8am. There is the assumption that West Otago will use the Gore hub after hours, but we will have to see how it goes.’’
The community would still be reliant on its St John and fire service volunteers and the the rescue helicopter, he said.
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Health trust chairman Allister Body