The Whangaroa Health Services Trust is in crisis following the resignation of its chief executive, chairwoman and many of its clinical staff.
No explanation has been offered for the resignations of trust chief executive Mana Hape, who was appointed in 2015, and chairwoman Violet Walker, although there has been an exodus of health professionals and allegations that staff had been bullied.
An emergency meeting of the remaining trust members was called in Kaeo on Monday night to decide the next steps.
The trust operates a hospital and rest home at Kaeo, and delivers free primary health care to more than 3000 people in the Whangaroa area. Public concern about the future provision of health care has been mounting in recent months with the departure of key clinical staff, in particular long-serving doctor Alison McAlwee, the last remaining GP, who is joining Broadway Health, which has clinics in Kaikohe, Waipapa and Kaitaia.
Two more nurses are believed to have resigned last week.
Members of the public at a packed AGM on May 29 quizzed trust management about Dr McAlwee's resignation and long waiting times to see a GP. It emerged that staff had written a 50-point letter of complaint alleging bullying and raising concerns about patient safety, overloading and a "blame culture".
The Northland DHB is assuring Whangaroa residents that they will still be able to see a doctor, Te Tai Tokerau PHO having prepared a six-month roster of locums from practices around the Far North. DHB planning manager John Wansbone said the priority of all parties was to maintain clinical services.
The DHB was aware of two resignations from the trust last weekend, and would be advised later this week of the outcome of Monday night's meeting. Meanwhile Ernst and Young is conducting an independent review of the trust on behalf of the DHB, the trust and the PHO, to establish how primary care services can be delivered in an accessible way.
Mr Wansbone would not say if he had seen a copy of the staff letter, but the board was "aware of the significant challenges that Whangaroa Health Services Trust, its wider staff team and community are currently facing."
The Ernst and Young review would include meeting frontline staff and iwi to help ensure the trust's health services were "fit for purpose" for all users.
A Taupo Bay resident, who did not want to be named, said he was worried by the resignation of a number of GPs.
"There's only one left, and now she's resigned ... She'll be missed, she's brilliant. She's been here since the year dot," he said.
He was also worried that the trust's mobile medical clinic, which used to call regularly at Taupo Bay and other isolated spots, could be lost due to a lack of staff and funding.
This is not the first time the trust has faced controversy and heated public meetings. A previous chief executive, Garry Ware, resigned suddenly in 2013, and in recent years it has had to grapple with funding cuts while health needs continue to escalate.