A shortage of GPs amid growth in Hawke's Bay is making it harder for patients to enrol in local general practices, with only a handful taking on new enrolments.
Fourteen of 27 general practices listed on the Our Health Hawke's Bay website are not taking new patients, as of July 15. Only three are taking anyone.
The remaining 10 practices are only accepting conditional enrolments.
Neville Saunders, medical centre manager of The Doctors in Hastings, Gascoigne and Waipawa, said this meant they were accepting conditional enrolment from people new to the area or those don't have an existing GP.
They are put on a waitlist and contacted when an opening becomes available - he estimates there are dozens on this list.
"It's completely driven by availability of GPs and the number of patients they have."
He said it had been an issue for decades.
"It's certainly not anything that's new. I think all practices are in the same position."
Saunders said it was frustrating given the nature of their clinicians.
"They are very caring people and want to help everyone but unfortunately, they can't."
He worried the increased cost of being a casual patient probably stopped some people from accessing health services or pushed them to ED services at the Hawke's Bay Hospital.
"It's a really precarious position."
Operations manager for The Doctors Napier Ahuriri, Greenmeadows, and EIT, Kelly Baylis, shared his concerns.
"I think cost probably is a factor for some people [trying to access health services].
"I know everyone is struggling to enrol patients. It's nationwide."
She said the recent arrival of new GPs meant they were now able to start taking new patients and were working to "clear the waitlist".
Most of these GPs were people from overseas, she said.
"We are constantly trying to get new GPs.
"There are no local GPs which makes it hard.
"It's been better since Covid-19 with people coming home."
This meant there were also more people coming into the region though.
A clinician, who asked not to be named, said they were taking enrolments only because of the huge demand.
"We are only doing this because there's nowhere else to go."
"You have to provide a service."
A clinician spoken to by Hawke's Bay Today estimated about 14 GPs are needed in Hawke's Bay to reduce the waitlists.
Many practices are now offering alternative ways for patients to access health care services like telemedicine and over the phone consults, digital health via patient portals and online consults, or nurse-led clinics.
Hawke's Bay Today approached the public health organisation Health Hawke's Bay but did not receive a response.