A community leader says the regional Primary Health Organisation (PHO) is shafting Glenorchy by threatening to stop funding its nursing clinic.
Glenorchy health subcommittee member Kate Scott says the potential loss of the weekly clinic would be another example of short-changing the Wakatipu on health.
“The clinic is vitally important,” she says.
“It means people only need 10 minutes off work to pop down to see the nurse – instead of half a day to see the doctor in Queenstown about something that might be quite minor.”
Losing the clinic’s handy access could deter young families and retirees from living in Glenorchy, Scott believes.
Annual core funding of about $11,000 from the regional PHO, which the district health board contracts to provide some primary health services, is under threat.
“You can’t help thinking that somewhere there must be population-based health funding for Glenorchy,” Scott says.
“You’d think some of that pot of money [could pay for the clinic]. For what we perceive to be a fairly minimal cost to the PHO, the clinic provides a very good service for a community like ours.”
The clinic, set up by the now-defunct Wakatipu PHO two years ago, is staffed by a medical centre nurse who sees about seven patients a week – each patient pays $10, Scott says.
The Glenorchy community also subsidises the clinic, she adds, because the PHO money covers only nine months of the year – the other three months are funded by the local church and other groups.
Despite this sizeable user-pays contribution, the regional PHO established last year has now told Glenorchy the annual funding may disappear after June.
Scott says local community leaders have already been told by the PHO’s Alexandra office that the funding is already lost – but PHO boss Ian McAra from Dunedin says a final decision won’t be made until month-end.
“It’s not dead in the water – it’s still being reviewed,” he tells Mountain Scene.
McAra acknowledges the clinic’s role: “It saves patients travelling up and down to Queenstown – it’s very sensible stuff.”
Problem is, the new regional super-PHO doesn’t get anywhere near the same Government funding as the dollars that used to go to the disestablished local PHOs.
“We’ve got less management-services funding now than we’ve ever had, McAra says, adding it’s been “significantly reduced”.
“What we’re wrestling with is to try and balance equitable access to services across the whole Otago-Southland region.”
The Glenorchy clinic handles minor or precautionary matters such as wound dressings, blood tests, blood pressure checks, cardiovascular checks and nutrition advice.