Some 24/7 GP clinics across the country are struggling to keep their overnight services going amid a shortage of doctors.
Porirua’s only 24/7 clinic could forced to drop its overnight service, causing concern for high-risk patients.
Earlier this year, Oamaru Hospital had to close its ED. Chief executive Keith Marshall said they are back to operating 24 hours but are “horrifically stretched”.
Speaking to Breakfast this morning, Dr Samantha Murton, president of the Royal New Zealand College of GPs, said overnight staffing has become an industry-wide issue.
“Across the board, people are struggling to provide that 24/7 care, whether you’re rural or in a city or anywhere,” she said.
“Having the staff and the funding to provide that service, and people willing to be involved, is actually really difficult.”
She said that 24/7 services are crucial for people in struggling communities that have high needs for healthcare.
“Having a service that’s provided 24/7 is actually quite useful because it means that they can go and be seen at any time when things get desperate.”
Murton said that while there were alternative ways to provide a 24/7 service, “you have to see some patients in person”.
In a statement, Te Whatu Ora said Kenepuru Accident & Medical Clinic would remain open overnight and it would be “working with a locum agency to fill our rosters”.
It will also set up a telehealth service “as an additional healthcare and advice option for Porirua and the surrounding communities”.
Murton said that if there’s enough volume in the locum rosters, Te Whatu Ora’s plans would be realistic, “but those locum rosters are used for a lot of their services as well”.
“If it is emergency department doctors, then that will be a different ball game from having those GPs who have been running the service overnight in Porirua before.”
She said the best fix to solve the clinic’s issues is to make sure there are enough new GPs entering the health system so that everyone can be seen.
“We do not have enough volume in the system in general practice so that people can be seen during the day, have all the services that they need, have the capacity for anything that comes in acutely or urgently and then be able to deal with all our day job as well.”
She said that investing in care at the “grassroots level” is vital to fixing the problem, as well as being the most “cost-effective care that you can provide”.
“If we can invest in that, it can save the country an enormous amount of money.”