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Waiting lists grow as GPs say no more

Masterton Medical was expected to reopen enrolments in July, when it hoped to have a new general practitioner. PHOTO/FILE

Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

Five of Wairarapa’s seven general practices have closed their books to new patients, leaving just two open for enrolments.

Martinborough Health Services and Featherston Medical are the only practices in the region still taking on new patients, after the district health board was notified on April 29 that Masterton Medical, the region’s largest general practice, had closed to new enrolments.

According to Wairarapa DHB’s latest board paper, almost 300 people were on the waiting list for Masterton Medical and Whaiora, though it was unknown whether these individuals were double-ups or enrolled elsewhere.

Although the paper stated Masterton Medical was expected to reopen enrolments in July, when it hoped to have a new general practitioner [GP], the region’s primary health organisation Tu Ora Compass Health has since confirmed the practice had three new GPs starting from late June and would accept enrolments from that time.

Masterton Medical had 40 people on its waitlist at the time the board paper was published.

Whaiora was also expected to recruit one new GP in July and would re-evaluate its enrolments status at that point. It had about 250 people on its waiting list, prioritised based on new baby National Immunisation Register nominations.

Enrolments were also closed at Kuripuni, Greytown, and Carterton medical centres.

Tu Ora acting chief executive Justine Thorpe said people were advised to remain enrolled with their current practice where possible.

“Alternative options could include Healthline – 0800 611116 – for free medical advice 24 hours, an after-hours service run collectively by Wairarapa medical centres and for emergencies go to Accident and Emergency at Masterton Hospital or call 111.”

A new virtual telehealth after-hours service would also be available by the end of the year, she said.

First Health and Wellness Centre on First St in Masterton also accepts walk-ins and is open noon until 8pm Monday to Friday.

While primary care workforce and retention was a national issue, rural and provincial areas had been particularly impacted.

“Tu Ora continues to work alongside local medical practice teams on primary care workforce and retention strategies for the region, including new models of care, utilising a wider multi-disciplinary team focus and telehealth options,” Thorpe said

According to the DHB paper, about 4 per cent of enrolments in Wairarapa practices came from outside the region, but this was offset by the 4.8 per cent of Wairarapa residents enrolled with practices outside of Wairarapa.

The paper noted several workforce challenges, including recruitment, staff retention, burnout, and high workloads.

In addition, about 40 per cent of the overseas workforce had not been able to enter New Zealand due to covid restrictions. The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners was working with the government on the issue.

The DHB also noted an overall 2 per cent estimated population growth from 2020/2021 to 2025/2026, an increase of about 1040 people.

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