Ur­gent care for the non-ur­gent cases

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE - JEN­NIFER EDER

A so­lu­tion to Blen­heim’s backedup emer­gency de­part­ment, a re­sult of the town’s on­go­ing doc­tor drought, is re­ally quite sim­ple – a less se­ri­ous emer­gency de­part­ment next door.

An ur­gent care cen­tre will open be­side the Wairau Hospi­tal emer­gency de­part­ment be­fore Christ­mas to man­age pa­tients with mi­nor com­plaints who can­not see a GP.

The move comes af­ter years of telling peo­ple to stop us­ing the de­part­ment for flus, sprains and bro­ken dig­its, a cam­paign that even saw bill­boards at the door urg­ing pa­tients to re­con­sider.

Marl­bor­ough Pri­mary Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Beth Tester said about 40 per cent of peo­ple turn­ing up at the emer­gency de­part­ment could be treated by GPs. Peo­ple had largely lis­tened to the hospi­tal’s call to save the de­part­ment for emer­gen­cies, but many peo­ple sim­ply had nowhere else to go, Tester said.

Some strug­gled to get same-day ap­point­ments with their GP or even to get en­rolled at all.

‘‘Pre­sen­ta­tions [at ED] have ac­tu­ally been drop­ping since the cam­paign started,’’ Tester said.

‘‘But if we can deal with them in pri­mary care, we should. It al­lows ED staff the abil­ity to deal with the more com­plex cases, to fo­cus on the peo­ple that ac­tu­ally need their spe­cial­ist skills.’’

The Nel­son Marl­bor­ough District Health Board ex­pected de­mand to grow in the next 20 years as the pop­u­la­tion aged and grew – enough to fill a third hospi­tal in the top of the south if the funds ex­isted.

High tourism and sea­sonal worker num­bers in the sum­mer also led to more pre­sen­ta­tions at the emer­gency de­part­ment, so it was im­por­tant the clinic, in the old Churchill Hospi­tal chil­dren’s ward, opened in De­cem­ber, Tester said. ‘‘We need to cater to their health­care needs as well.’’

There were about 2800 work­ers in the re­gion un­der the Recog­nised Sea­sonal Em­ployer scheme who were not en­rolled with a GP be­cause they were not per­ma­nent res­i­dents.

Tester was speak­ing with the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries about fund­ing vis­its for RSE work­ers, as their health in­sur­ance only cov­ered acute events, but they of­ten needed treat­ment for health com­plaints such as the flu.

‘‘It is planned that the ur­gent care cen­tre be­comes the health home for this group.’’

Pa­tients would be charged a sim­i­lar amount to rates at the af­ter-hours clinic, which would com­bine with the ur­gent care clinic when it opened, va­cat­ing its cur­rent build­ing.

Res­i­dents were charged $75 for treat­ment at the af­ter-hours clinic. Over­seas vis­i­tors and peo­ple not reg­is­tered with a GP in the re­gion paid more, while ACC-cov­ered in­juries, chil­dren and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices card­hold­ers paid less.

The PHO was still ad­ver­tis­ing for doc­tors, nurses and ad­min­is­tra­tion staff, though sev­eral peo­ple from out­side the re­gion had reg­is­tered in­ter­est, Tester said.

She was yet to learn the cost of leas­ing the ward from the board, but the board usu­ally charged ‘‘very rea­son­able’’ rates, she said.

The clinic was first floated to join other ser­vices at phase two of the health hub in cen­tral Blen­heim. In­stead the board agreed to house the clinic next door to the emer­gency de­part­ment, and would pay to get the rooms ready be­fore Christ­mas, when an in­flux of vis­i­tors tested the hospi­tal’s re­sources. The PHO would use an­nual fund­ing from the board for op­er­at­ing costs.

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