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.’’

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