PHO backs Wakatipu health fix cites financial strain

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Government GP-funding body – the Southern Primary Health Organisation – backs a controversial fix for Wakatipu healthcare, citing financial pressures. 

Southland District Health Board chief executive Brian Rousseau last week unveiled a new proposal for a one-stop shop Integrated Family Health Centre – combining GP services and clinics with urgent hospital care. It involves a controversial move to refer to GPs those people who turn up at the hospital emergency department with non-urgent ailments. 

Southern PHO chairman Conway Powell has come out in support, partly citing financial strain on the health system. 

PHOs plan, co-ordinate and fund primary health care – mainly involving GPs. 

“With the increasingly challenging financial pressure on our New Zealand health system, Southern PHO has to ensure that local primary health services are sustainable, responsive and provided within communities for the best care for patients. The proposal outlines financial advantages in this regard,” Powell says in a statement. 

An IFHC will provide a comprehensive range of primary (GP and other) health services that are accessible, coordinated, safe and convenient while ensuring hospital services provide urgent care, he adds. 

Regarding the controversial move to refer some patients away from the emergency department, Powell says:
“General practice is best placed to handle the patients’ needs, because they know the patient.” 

Rousseau has said a triage nurse will make the decision to refer patients – instead of GPs as indicated earlier – and some of the anticipated annual savings of $500,000 from this set-up will be used to help those struggling financially to pay for a GP visit. 

No decision has been made yet on whether to site the IFHC at Lakes District Hospital in Frankton or at a new facility planned by Remarkables Park and 14-doctor Queenstown Medical Centre. 

Lobby group the Wakatipu Health Trust has threatened to go to the High Court if SDHB doesn’t conduct detailed public consultation over the possible relocation of hospital services from Frankton to the Remarkables Park’s facility.