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GP shortage delivers more problems



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Wairarapa’s GP shortage spares no one, with a newly pregnant woman forced to seek medical treatment in Upper Hutt.

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, found out she was pregnant last week and was told by a midwife to seek a GP.

She had moved from Upper Hutt to Masterton with her husband late in 2021 and had a casual appointment at Masterton Medical earlier this year. However, when she asked to enrol, she was turned down.

“I thought because I had already been there that I was enrolled.”

Of the seven primary care providers in the region listed by Tu Ora Compass Health, Featherston Medical was the only one currently accepting new enrolments.

The woman was put on a waiting list for Masterton Medical but given no timeframe for when she might be accepted.

She called multiple other practices, including Kuripuni, Whaiora, and Greytown. She tried Carterton Medical Centre — where her husband and his family were both enrolled — but was turned down because she had a Masterton address.

“They told me they only took patients who lived in Carterton.”

After contacting the office of Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty, she was enrolled in a Masterton practice.

However, she was concerned for people in the same situation who would not know how to get help. She said the stress had taken its toll.

“I’ve got to the point of tears. I genuinely don’t know what to do. This is my first pregnancy.

“I feel for the GPs. I know they’re under the pump, but this shows that there’s a broken system.”

Masterton District councillor Gary Caffell said he’d received multiple submissions from residents affected by the GP shortage.

“One person who had the same doctor for 20 years was told he was no longer her doctor without any notice.

Tu Ora Compass Health chief executive Justine Thorpe said Wairarapa medical centres were impacted by staff sickness.

“Wairarapa medical centres are currently responding to unprecedented demand for services due to the pandemic and increasing winter illness, including high rates of influenza.

“Medical centres are left with no option but to close enrolments while they manage this demand.

“This ensures quality of care and staff wellbeing.”

She said the global GP shortage was compounded in rural provincial areas such as Wairarapa.

“Each medical centre manages its own waiting list for enrolment, and Tu Ora works with medical centres to help prioritise people where we have become aware of a clinical need that needs to be prioritised.”

Thorpe said Tu Ora was developing strategies to manage the demand, including an incentive programme to attract first and second-year GPs to the region.

However, she said there was no short-term solution.

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