Cutting service isn't safe: GPs

By Patrick O'Sullivan

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Dr Hugh Findlay is urging the District Health Board (DHB) to continue funding an after-hours urgent nursing service in Napier. Photo/Paul Taylor
Dr Hugh Findlay is urging the District Health Board (DHB) to continue funding an after-hours urgent nursing service in Napier. Photo/Paul Taylor

Napier GPs are urging people to pressure the Hawke's Bay District Health Board (DHB) to continue funding an after-hours urgent nursing service in Napier.

A nurse and on-call doctor are currently funded by the board for 9pm to 8am, but the service sees on average one patient an hour while Hawke's Bay Hospital continues to set new records in its Emergency Department.

The DHB is teaming with primary health providers to co-ordinate an urgent care model and close the under-utilised Napier nursing service.

A statement issued by the Working Party representing Napier Doctors said the board proposed an on-call GP roster, with no nursing support for Napier.

"This is totally opposed by Napier GPs because they would not be able to provide a safe or efficient service without nursing support," the statement said.

"A cost of less than $8 per year for each Napier resident is a small expenditure for the DHB to provide after-hours services for Napier people.

It is only 0.085 per cent of the total DHB annual budget."

It said Napier Doctors supported improving the quality of care for all patients "including reducing inappropriate overcrowding at the Hawke's Bay Hospital".

The existing after-hours services at City Medical in Wellesley Rd was fully supported by more than 40 doctors in Napier and "gives our community security and confidence in ease of access to after-hours care".

Dr Hugh Findlay, Working Party spokesman and manager/medical director of City Medical, said doctors needed the nurse at the centre because they were required to work the next day.

After-hours was when only seriously ill people visited.

"If you have a car with petrol then Hastings is not too far, but if you have no car or a car with no petrol then travelling to Hastings is right out of the question - in the middle of the night, certainly," he said.

Last month the DHB voted for an alliance of health-care providers to pursue an option that would see significant changes before further integration was considered. Proposals included hospital primary care designed by the Primary Health Organisation, St John treating more people with upskilled paramedics who may transport the patient to a GP instead of hospital and the redeployment of the Napier after-hours nurse to be replaced by an on-call GP.

DHB chief executive Kevin Snee said the urgent-care alliance review body was not yet formed and any recommendation would be subject to "rigorous public consultation".

"Access to urgent medical care and how we provide it is critical for the future health of our community," Dr Snee said.

"Just doing what we have always done is not wise use of taxpayers' money and not necessarily sustainable into the future. This review will help us identify what works well, how the demand on this service will look in the future and what we could do better."

He said the clinically led review group would ultimately decide the model of urgent care that would go out for consultation.

"We need to look at whether that is the best service we can provide and whether we can come up with a better plan for urgent care in Napier."

Napier GP and chief medical officer of Primary Care Dr Mark Petersen said no decision had been made "and won't be made without going out for public consultation".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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