Afterhours healthcare update soon
CENTRAL Otago residents should have an update on changes to the district’s afterhours healthcare service by Christmas, Southern District Health Board director Lisa Gestro says.
But Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean says she still has concerns about the issue and is calling on health Minister David Clark to have ‘‘urgent input’’.
A statement from Mr Clark’s office said ‘‘the Minister is aware of the issue in Central Otago, but it is a matter for the Southern DHB in the first instance’’.
The board’s executive director, strategy, primary and community directorate, Ms Gestro, said this week the SDHB continued to work with other health service providers to find ‘‘a sustainable solution’’ to afterhours services for Central Otago.
‘‘We are making good progress and hope to provide an update before Christmas.’’
When contacted by the Otago Daily
representatives from WellSouth and Central Otago After Hours declined to comment.
Central Otago’s afterhours health service changed on November 1, when its GPs stopped providing afterhours care between 10pm and 8am, citing financial and staffing issues.
Now patients need to either call 111 or receive advice about treatment options through the telephone triage service they have always accessed by phoning their GP number.
Patients using that service will be advised whether they should phone 111 and possibly be taken to Dunstan Hospital by ambulance or wait to be seen by a GP the following day.
Mrs Dean and Cromwell GP Dr Greg White have spoken out about their concerns about the service, which they say could put patients at risk.
Mrs Dean said this week: ‘‘Despite the best intentions of everyone involved, I am concerned that there is an element of risk and that a patient needing urgent support may fall through the cracks and not receive adequate treatment due to the reduced services available.
‘‘I have no doubt that St John ambulance and others involved in providing after hours care between 10pm and 8am will do their best for patients in the Central Otago area, but believe that the current gaps in service provision are not an ideal situation and need rectifying’’.
Central Otago GPs and medical centre managers contacted by the Otago Daily have either declined to comment or not responded to requests for comment.
But Alexandra GP Dr Susan Macpherson, who attended a presentation by Central Otago Health Services Ltd chairman Allan Kane at an Alexandra, Clyde and Districts Business Group meeting last week, responded to some questions from the floor about the afterhours system. She authorised the Otago Daily
to report her comments, saying it should be noted the mandate of GP practices was to help their registered patients and that many of the problems with providing afterhours healthcare came from the number of out of town visitors during busy periods.
She said Dunstan Hospital had ‘‘very good’’ doctors and provided excellent treatment for patients taken to the hospital by ambulance after hours.
The skills of St John staff and volunteers had continued to improve over the 30 years she had been a GP and ‘‘they are now people with professional training, similar to ours’’.