Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Middlemore ED targeted by Te Whatu Ora as one of eight national ‘hotspots’

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Photo: Jarred Williamson/ Stuff
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Local Democracy Reporting | Free Public Interest News Service

Middlemore Hospital has been identified as a ‘hotspot’ needing extra support before the winter flu season.

The emergency department is one of eight places identified by Te Whatu Ora as requiring extra resource.

Plans to divert patients to primary healthcare are also needed – but GPs are concerned they won’t have the capacity to pick up the slack.

Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand chairperson Rob Campbell recently said workforce shortages plaguing Middlemore’s ED would not be addressed in time for the flu season.

It followed comments from front-line healthcare workers who said the hospital’s ED was haemorrhaging staff and they were concerned about the impact it would have on the department’s ability to function during winter.

But Campbell said it is now working to try and address the problem.

“We may need to redirect staff from other areas so these hotspots, like Middlemore, can be prioritised,” Campbell said.

“But it will be different in each area and tailored to their specific needs. Each area will have its own specific plan that will work for that location.”

When asked if diverting patients from Middlemore Hospital’s ED to primary care providers could be problematic, he said he was aware of the ongoing shortage of GPs in Counties Manukau.

“There are some locations around the country where that will work, but we’ve got to find different solutions for each specific area.”

Te Whatu Ora chairman Rob Campbell says staffing shortages plaguing Middlemore’s ED won’t be addressed in time for the next winter flu season, but he says Te Whatu Ora is doing what it can to address the problem.

The other emergency department ‘hotspots’ are Whangārei, Auckland City, Tauranga, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Invercargill hospitals.

But Papakura GP Dr Primla Khar said there are a lot of unanswered questions about exactly what Te Whatu Ora plans to do to address the pressure on services expected during the winter flu season.

“Primary health care can’t just be used as a dumping ground for our hospitals,” Khar said.

She said GPs have been under a lot of pressure since Covid-19 and staffing shortages remain an ongoing problem in the sector.

Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners president Samantha Murton said adding to the workloads of GPs to reduce the pressure on EDs like Middlemore isn’t a long term solution.

“There are practices all around the country that have closed their books to new patients and are already under the pump,” she said.

But Murton said GPs can take on more staff during the winter flu season if they have the funding to do so.

“The solution needs to involve all the players and there needs to be some robust discussions about how we can solve this and how we can make it work.”

In June last year Counties Manukau Health ran a free GP visits scheme which was intended to take pressure off Middlemore Hospital’s emergency department.

It announced the scheme just days after a woman died after leaving the ED because of the long wait times.

But a review of the free GP visits released in September found there was “limited evidence of any direct benefits” from the programme.

The report also said a number of primary healthcare providers were interested in taking part in the scheme, but were unable to do so due to “capacity issues”.

Local democracy reporting




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