Close the books or re­duce pa­tients

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - REXINE HAWES

A na­tion­wide doc­tor short­age is hav­ing im­pli­ca­tions for peo­ple in the Waikato.

Mata­mata Med­i­cal Centre has 7.5 full time equiv­a­lent doc­tors, for a pa­tient roll of 14,700 peo­ple, in­clud­ing the 700 peo­ple en­rolled with Raun­gaiti Marae Health Clinic.

Pa­tients who don’t live lo­cally are be­ing asked to find an­other doc­tor in their own area, in or­der to ease the con­ges­tion.

Mata­mata Med­i­cal Centre Prac­tice Man­ager Gil­lian Vin­cent says the med­i­cal centre has nine doc­tors, with an av­er­age 1960 pa­tients per doc­tor, as some are part time.

The prac­tice di­rec­tors made a de­ci­sion to grad­u­ally write to all pa­tients with­out a local ad­dress and en­cour­age them to find a doc­tor in their area.

‘‘I have writ­ten to peo­ple who live in Coro­man­del, Auck­land, Tau­marunui and Tau­ranga. There are mul­ti­ple med­i­cal cen­tres in those ar­eas. When you are sick, you don’t want to have to hop in your car and travel for up to two hours to see your doc­tor. It’s just not good med­i­cal care.’’

So far 50 pa­tients have re­ceived letters.

Vin­cent says the first pa­tients to be con­tacted were un­der Dr Craig Camp­bell’s care who re­tired ear­lier this year. Vin­cent says each pa­tient’s doc­tor is con­sulted be­fore send­ing out the let­ter.

While she un­der­stands there will be mixed feel­ings for pa­tients be­ing asked to find a new doc­tor in their area, Vin­cent says the al­ter­na­tive is worse.

‘‘Our pri­or­ity is to the peo­ple who live lo­cally first and fore­most. The other al­ter­na­tive is to close our books all to­gether and that would be a tragedy for this com­mu­nity.

‘‘We ap­pre­ci­ate that peo­ple get to know their doc­tor and it’s a very per­sonal re­la­tion­ship and it’s hard chang­ing and get­ting to know some­one new.’’

‘‘The rec­om­men­da­tion is 1500 pa­tients for a ru­ral GP. One doc­tor has 2200 pa­tients, which is not a healthy work­load.

‘‘The length of time for peo­ple to get an ap­point­ment, at its worst, is two-three days‘‘.

Vin­cent says the short­age of GPs is a na­tion­wide is­sue. As far as the Mata­mata Med­i­cal Centre goes, it was lucky to have Dr Reuben Tom­lin­son, who re­placed Dr Camp­bell.

She is cur­rently ne­go­ti­at­ing with two other GPs in the US to join the prac­tice.

Dr Tom­lin­son fol­lows Dr Kelly Bren­nan who joined the centre last year, and Dr Do­minique Hite, who joined just over two years ago.

‘‘We have doc­tors fac­ing re­tire­ment in the next five to 10 years, so we will then face an­other up­hill bat­tle to re­place them.’’

To help ease pres­sure the med­i­cal centre launched an ur­gent clinic, so if some­one is re­ally un­well they can speak with and be as­sessed by a nurse first, then re­ferred to a doc­tor if need be.

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