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No quick cure for doctor shortage


Wairarapa needs more GPs to meet standard

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One of Wairarapa’s medical centres has closed its books to new enrolments.

Meanwhile, others are taking limited enrolments due to swelling patient loads and a small number of doctors.

Whaiora is Wairarapa’s only general practice in Wairarapa registered under the Very Low Cost Access [VLCA] scheme, defined by the Ministry of Health as a general practice with 50 per cent of its patients registered as “high needs patients”.

The medical centre’s spokeswoman Jane Ross said it had closed its books completely because they were at capacity.

She said this was based on the number of enrolled patients to the number of doctors.

There are “approximately 3870 enrolled clients who are under the care of three part-time general practitioners”, Ross said.

Whaiora covers patients in this category from Mt Bruce to the Remutaka Range, but if they were to provide this service for more patients, they would need to hire another doctor, Ross said.

Other practices in Wairarapa do not offer the VLCA service which allows doctors’ visits to be charged at $19.

Ross said VLCA was crucial for Wairarapa people who had not been able to access healthcare for financial or social reasons.

“There are a number of people that are very wary about accessing health services or don’t understand how to,” she said.

“A very low-cost health centre exists to address the disparities in health outcomes for people with high health needs.”

When it comes to hiring doctors, Ross said their board of trustees looked for doctors who fit the clinic’s core values.

One being “whakawhanaungatanga which means to be connected and have your health and medical networks in place”, Ross said.

The Tu Ora Compass Health website shows only three of Wairarapa’s seven medical centres are enrolling new patients region-wide.

According to the website, Featherston Medical, Greytown Medical, and Martinborough Health Services are enrolling patients, but Carterton Medical Centre, Kuripuni Medical Centre, Masterton Medical, and Whaiora Medical Centre are not.

However, Masterton Medical spokeswoman Lisa Carruthers said the centre was “open for new enrolments” but only from people with a Masterton residential address and who were not already enrolled with another Wairarapa medical centre.

Carterton Medical Centre is taking on new patients who have a Carterton address.

The practice has welcomed a new doctor, Heapyong Seah, from Singapore.

Kuripuni Medical Centre is taking limited enrolments.

Featherston Medical practice manger Aruni Dias said they were only open for patients in Featherston but were looking at opening their books to all South Wairarapa patients beginning October.

The Times-Age has previously reported that Wairarapa needed more doctors if the region was to meet the national standard.

According to the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners the national ratio “is currently 75 full-time equivalent [FTE] GPs per 100,000 population”.

Wairarapa has an equivalent of 65 doctors per 100,000 population.

With the region’s position at about 46,000 it was served by 30 GPs with some working part-time and reduced hours, Susan Fullerton-Smith, the communications adviser for Tu Ora Compass Health, said.

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