Kaeo pushes back against con­tract­ing out of GP ser­vices

The Northland Age - - Local News - By Peter de Graaf

A de­ci­sion to con­tract out Whangaroa’s GP ser­vices to an ex­ter­nal provider has been strongly op­posed at a pub­lic meet­ing in Kaeo.

But the health board says it’s the only way to make sure the area has safe pri­mary health ser­vices into the fu­ture — and points out Whangaroa’s health ser­vices were on the brink of col­lapse when it was forced to in­ter­vene ear­lier this year.

The Whangaroa Health Ser­vices Trust — which pro­vides free pri­mary care, in­clud­ing doc­tors’ vis­its, and runs an aged­care fa­cil­ity at the former Kaeo Hos­pi­tal — reached cri­sis point in June when many of its clin­i­cal staff re­signed, in­clud­ing its last GP. That was fol­lowed by the res­ig­na­tion of the trust’s chief ex­ec­u­tive and board chair­woman.

The North­land District Health Board stepped in, ap­point­ing a re­tired health boss to run the trust as a short-term mea­sure.

A re­view by au­dit­ing firm EY found the trust had been spend­ing more than it re­ceived since 2010 and likely to run out of money by Oc­to­ber this year.

EY pro­posed two op­tions: Op­tion A pro­posed leav­ing the trust in con­trol of GP ser­vices and Kauri Lodge rest home, while op­tion B pro­posed leav­ing the rest home un­der trust con­trol but con­tract­ing out GP ser­vices to an­other provider.

The health board chose op­tion B with el­e­ments of op­tion A.

Health board plan­ning man­ager John Wans­bone said the com­pro­mise de­ci­sion was not taken lightly.

“North­land DHB be­lieves that de­spite the best ef­forts and in­ten­tions of Whangaroa Health Ser­vices Trust, it does not have the ex­pe­ri­ence, re­sources or ca­pa­bil­i­ties to over­see de­liv­ery of pri­mary care ser­vices in a sus­tain­able and safe man­ner.

“For that rea­son the health board couldn’t im­ple­ment a model with the trust di­rectly or in­di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for pri­mary care.”

The board would en­sure, through con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions, that the new provider would work closely with the trust.

The op­tion cho­sen in­cluded $1.3 mil­lion in ex­tra fund­ing per year and would let the trust to re­tain in­de­pen­dence while pro­vid­ing “fit-for-pur­pose, mod­ern doc­tor ser­vices from a pro­fes­sional or­gan­i­sa­tion”.

It would also re­duce the risk of col­lapse in the fu­ture, Wans­bone said.

Pub­lic meet­ings about the two op­tions were held in Septem­ber and again this month when the health board an­nounced its de­ci­sion.

Two-thirds of the roughly 300 re­sponses from the Whangaroa com­mu­nity wanted the trust to re­main as the provider of GP ser­vices (op­tion A).

Trust chair­man Grant Lane told the health board the 100 or so at­ten­dees at the Novem­ber 14 meet­ing in Kaeo strongly re­jected the de­ci­sion. Lane could not be con­tacted. The health board plans to have the new GP ser­vice run­ning by July 1 next year.

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