Rotorua's after-hours doctors surgery says it has serious concerns about its ability to cope during winter because of extra demand from offering free health care to 6- to 12-year-olds and its inability to attract a new doctor.

Despite advertising extensively in New Zealand and overseas for extra doctors, Lakes PrimeCare has had no expressions of interest.

Lakes PrimeCare chairwoman Roz Wilson said the surgery had concerns around its inability to cope with the extra numbers and workload as a result.

"We are advertising aggressively nationally and internationally for extra doctors to work alongside the local GPs, but as yet we have had no - zero - expressions of interest for the upcoming winter months and the expected increase in demand."


Dr Wilson said Lakes PrimeCare had employed additional nurses and reception staff but finding suitably qualified doctors was the significant concern.

Lakes PrimeCare had initially decided against offering free care to the 6-12 age group following the Government's introduction of the policy last July.

About five months ago it decided to offer the free after-hours health care.

Asked whether it had publicised its decision to start offering the free out of hours care, Dr Wilson said it hadn't advertised it but Rotorua general practices had put the word out within their surgeries.

"The main concern at the time and still is, which we expressed strongly to the Lakes District Health Board, was our inability to cope with the extra numbers and workload due to manpower issues.

"Many people now visiting Lakes PrimeCare, particularly after hours and at weekends, will be noticing longer wait-times required to see a doctor, along with noticing how hard and busy all staff at Lakes PrimeCare are working."

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Dr Wilson said they were using the extra funding to recruit more staff, especially for doctors to work exclusively at Lakes PrimeCare helping the already overworked GPs and nurses.

"At this stage, prior to the oncoming winter months and flu season, we have had no success which is posing serious concerns to Lakes PrimeCare."

She said the demand had been "very high" since the introduction of the free care for under 6s, and then the extension to under 13s.

Lakes District Health Board spokeswoman Shan Tapsell said RAPHS, the primary health organisation, had contracted Lakes PrimeCare to deliver the service.

She said if Lakes Primecare was under pressure, that needed to be addressed through RAPHS, the contract holder.

"This is not a Lakes PrimeCare/Lakes DHB conversation."

RAPHS could not be reached for comment yesterday.