Stratford Press

Patients asked for patience with changes

Medical Centre’s new owners transfer clinic’s systems and records and clear backlog of GP appointmen­ts

- Ilona Hanne

The aim is to give people in Stratford more of the medical services they need in the town.

Dr Nick Loveridge-Easther Avon Medical

Patients are being asked to have patience as Avon Medical Centre’s new owners work through the process of transferri­ng all the clinic’s systems and records to their service, while also working through a backlog of patients needing to see a GP.

“It has been a long road but we are finally seeing some progress,” says Dr Nick Loveridge-Easther of Avon Medical.

“The patients have been through a lot and we really appreciate their ongoing support and patience.”

Dr Loveridge-Easther is clinical director of Coastal Medical — the company which is in the process of rebuilding Avon Medical from their takeover in late July.

He says the team is working hard to make the transition as smooth as possible but they have a lot of work to do.

When Coastal Medical took over Avon Medical Centre, it took on a practice with 7500 patients on its books and just one part-time GP, he says.

“This resulted in a huge backlog of work from complex patients that hadn’t been seen for years, to huge volumes of unaddresse­d clinical results, as well as simple things like driver’s licences that were piling up. We have cut this right down and are now starting to deploy new services to improve both long-term condition management as well as acute care in Stratford.”

At the end of July they began the process of rebuilding clinical and IT systems at Avon Medical and securing new clinical staff.

“We want our community to be able to talk to the team they know on the ground in Stratford when they need help,” says Dr Loveridge-Easther.

He says they have needed to redevelop both the IT and phone systems.

“It has not been easy extracting the clinic from the call centre in Hamilton or the computer software they had been using and as a result has taken longer than we expected. We feel the hard work is worth it to develop a strong foundation for a high-quality local service.”

Avon Medical already have some new staff in the clinic and some are confirmed to arrive over the coming months.

“The medical recruitmen­t environmen­t at the moment is one of the hardest we have ever experience­d which is reflected in the widespread difficulty in accessing medical care. We are very fortunate to have secured multiple new doctors, nurse prescriber­s and extended care paramedics who have started landing and will continue to grow our team over the next three months,” says Dr Loveridge-Easther.

“This has involved a huge amount of work behind the scenes with long hours and dedication of the clinical admin and nursing team that form the backbone of Avon Medical really going above and beyond.”

Coastal Medical is looking at deploying highly trained medical care assistants, nurses, paramedics and physician assistants in combinatio­n with specialist general practition­ers to address the clinical demand. By recruiting these clinically experience­d staff from all over the world, including Canada and the United States, they are trying to overcome the shortages of staff within New Zealand as well as supporting the training of general practition­ers within Avon Medical itself, he says.

“It takes some time for the community to understand the role of these clinicians but once you work with a skilled nurse prescriber, for example, you will realise how underutili­sed they are and how much impact they can make.

“Our biggest priority right now is supporting our team to have a solid foundation from which we can offer our patients the right care, with the right clinician at the right time in our local community.”

This means there are still some delays in getting appointmen­ts and there are some issues with the phone systems but this should be addressed in the coming weeks to months, says Dr Loveridge-Easther.

Coastal Medical already owns and operates successful and busy medical centres in O¯ punake and O¯ akura, and he is confident the team will be able to replicate its success in Stratford, despite the challenges primary healthcare services are facing across the country.

The next stage will be adding in more services. This starts with an urgent care service aimed to start towards the end of the year.

“A priority will be employing additional GPs as well as advanced care paramedics who will be able to offer an acute service — seeing patients who need to be seen as soon as possible and getting them the care they need. We already have two of these paramedics under contract and plan to employ more in the future.”

From here they will extend their accredited skin cancer and varicose vein service to Avon to support the South Taranaki population, says Nick.

Once those first stages are complete, there are even bigger plans for the medical centre.

“The advantage of Avon Medical Centre is that it has a great building with plenty of space and a great team on the ground. This suits our longerterm plans to offer a range of extra services such as minor surgery, vasectomy, skin cancer consultati­ons and so on.

“The aim is to give people in Stratford more of the medical services they need in the town, rather than have to travel out of town for anything more than a standard GP or nurse consultati­on.”

The team of GPs, nurses and other health and administra­tion workers at Coastal Medical are all excited to have added Avon Medical to their group, he says.

“Many of us have young families ourselves and so know how important it is to be able to offer full primary healthcare in the towns where we live. It’s also vital our older residents in the community are able to get medical and associated care without having to travel far.”

Stratford District Mayor Neil Volzke says he welcomes the changes being made.

“Following their purchase of the practice, I have been keeping in touch with Nick and the team at Avon. They inherited a huge backlog of work and issues to deal with. But I am really impressed by their enthusiasm and the in-roads they have made already to address the issues.

“It will still take time, but the improvemen­ts are very noticeable and they are well on target to offer a full range of primary healthcare services for the district.”

 ?? Photo / NZME ?? Avon Medical is now owned by Coastal Medical.
Photo / NZME Avon Medical is now owned by Coastal Medical.

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