Kaeo pushes back against contracting out of GP services
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.