Af­ter hours fund­ing plea heard

Clutha Leader - - FRONT PAGE - MARY-JO TOHILL

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 [14] 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.

Con­tin­ued on page 3.

Health trust chair­man Al­lis­ter Body

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