Health board under fire over rest homes
The Waikato District Health Board is forfeiting its responsibility by watching Putaruru’s rest homes fork out tens of thousands of dollars every year to ensure residents are seen by a doctor, according to New Zealand Aged Care Association chief executive Martin Taylor.
Putaruru- Tirau Family Doctors has withdrawn services from the town’s rest homes leaving them scrambling to find an alternative.
Practice manager Patricia Cole said the decision was made because of resources, not money.
‘‘It [lack of manpower] has been an ongoing issue for a very very long time...This is not a decision we have taken lightly or in a rash manner.’’
Cardrona Rest Home and Hospital co-owner Trevor Beer said it was a huge blow for the community.
‘‘I’m hugely disappointed that the local family doctors have decided to withdraw their services,’’ he said.
‘‘When one [medical centre] is a majority and they just send a letter out stating they are going to discontinue services and you’ve got to find services elsewhere, it’s quite daunting. How far afield do you have to go?’’
His competitor, Rangiura Rest Home, has contracted Matamata Medical Centre to provide ‘‘specialised’’ age care services starting in October, but Beer said adopting the same option would mean an extra $25,000 annually – a price tag he could not afford.
But Taylor said the buck stopped with the DHB.
‘‘At the end of the day this is the DHB’s problem and they need to swiftly address it. If they don’t, it’s a failure in the primary health sector.’’
He said the DHB is legally responsible for providing adequate GP services for the population ‘‘ under reasonable circumstances’’.
Forcing rest homes to pay exorbitant prices to bring in GPs from outside the district does not fall within that framework, he said.
‘‘ Most other DHB’s accept their responsibilities and handle it well . . . This is a little bit of a surprise and it will be interesting to see what [the Waikato DHB] does.’’
Waikato District Health Board communications director Mary Anne Gill said these issues are not unique to rural providers.
‘‘The issue of primary care facilities is not unique to Putaruru and is of concern to all DHBs. This has been raised at a national level through relevant forums and with local Public Health Organisations.’’
She said it is the provider’s responsibility to ensure the provision of primary care services.
Rangiura Rest Home chief executive Juliette Tuckey agreed the problem lay with the DHB.
The withdrawal of the doctors’ services proves the cost of providing health care in a rural town such as Putaruru had been hugely underestimated, she said.
South Waikato had one of the lowest Local Territorial Authority daily bed-rates; meaning they get paid less than other areas to provide the same service.
The rate is based on land value but Tuckey said there are other factors such as the cost of medical services and delivery of goods that should be taken into account.
She said the Putaruru-Tirau Family Doctors are doing the best they can.
‘‘Naturally we’re disappointed given our long- standing relationship with the doctors, however, we understand the pressure they’re under so all we could do is focus on finding an alternative and we’ve found one.’’
She said Rangiura’s residents would ultimately win out with a more specialised service, it just comes at a hefty price.
Hauraki PHO chief executive Hugh Kininmonth said the expensive withdrawal is a good news story for the small town.
‘‘The biggest challenge is that it will cost rest home providers, but from a community perspective the GP team will have more time to concentrate on the whole community.’’