As Buller and Reefton again face GP shortages, the West Coast District Health Board has employed a Christchurch-based company to help manage its GP practices.

From July 8, Buller Health will be short of GPs for a fortnight and Reefton will be struggling for five weeks.

The shortages reflected the long-standing problem of recruiting and retaining GPs and relying on locums, said a report from the West Coast District Health Board (WCDHB) chief executive David Meates.

The WCDHB's new management contract with Better Health Ltd would provide an opportunity to build viable and vibrant DHB-owned general practices on the West Coast, Mr Meates said.


The partnership would lead to the establishment of a stable GP workforce, improved clinical, administration and recruitment systems and more focus on financial sustainability.

"All of this is about better supporting primary care teams to deliver improved continuity of care for patients in general practice."

The finer details of the services were still being negotiated, Mr Meates said.

"However, we are moving with speed because the building of capacity and capability within general practice is a top priority for the DHB."

Better Health director Dr Graham McGeoch had visited the DHB's GP practices in Westport, Reefton, Greymouth and South Westland this month.

Better Health is an independent general practice development company. It currently operates four general practices - the Moorhouse, Barrington and Diamond Harbour medical centres in Canterbury and Better Health Timaru, totalling around 28,000 enrolled patients.

The company's website says its approach is to invest in general practices but to share ownership with GPs equally.

"We have a policy of 50 per cent ownership in a practice. When the GP or GPs in a practice also have 50 per cent ownership, that ensures that the practice will be managed in the best interest of the patients and GPs."


The WCDHB said there would was no "current plan" for ownership changes to its GP practices.

- The Westport News