Hopes dashed for after-hours services

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Parliament's Health Select Committee has rejected a petition calling for Kawakawa Hospital's services to be moved to Kerikeri.
Parliament's Health Select Committee has rejected a petition calling for Kawakawa Hospital's services to be moved to Kerikeri.

Parliament's Health Select Committee has rejected an 1800-signature petition asking the Government and the Northland District Health Board to re-establish after-hours doctor services in Kerikeri.

The petition asked that the two "immediately and without delay re-establish an after-hours doctor's surgery office in Kerikeri, to include week nights, weekends and public holidays, and to reinstate the recently axed after-hours doctors services at Whangaroa Hospital".

The petitioner, Kerikeri man Rob Sintes, believed the Government had a duty to provide strategically located after-hours doctor's surgery services as a basic level of care, based on accurate demographic data. He said the centre of the local population is Kerikeri, and that it does not make sense for patients to travel to Kawakawa when most of the GPs live in Kerikeri, the committee said in its decision.

"The petitioner asked for us to 'provide resources or direction sufficient to reinstate after-hours doctor's surgery services at (or near) Kaeo Hospital and in Kerikeri'.

"He is also concerned about the decision to upgrade the facility at Kawakawa," it added.

Mr Sintes had described the DHB's decisions as illogical when demographic data was considered, claiming that 13,518 Kerikeri residents made the one-hour round trip to Kawakawa for after-hours services in 2014, compared with 3513 Kawakawa residents who were living close to the after-hours service.

"We understand the petitioner's concerns about the removal of after-hours services at Kerikeri and Whangaroa," the committee's decision said.

"We acknowledge that the petitioner has concerns about the redevelopment of the hospital at Kawakawa because of its location, because of the lack of hospital beds and surgical services, and because it is over a former coal mine.

"However, we are also aware that DHBs and PHOs need to make decisions about the provision of services which balance the needs of patients, the community, and staff, with the available resources.

"We support the DHB's and the ministry's view that reinstating the service would be unsustainable, both for staff and financially, create confusion for patients, and reduce access to equipment and clinical development opportunities for GPs," it said.

The committee was satisfied that the DHB has considered the options available to it, and shared the ministry's view that this is an investment decision for the DHB.

- Northern Advocate

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