A single organisation will be responsible for the health of nearly a quarter of a million Wellington and Kapiti Coast residents after three primary health organisations merge.
The Kapiti Primary Health Organisation (PHO), the Wellington north Tumai mo te Iwi, and the Capital PHO (which already has 155,000 enrolled patients) have just agreed to merge by July 1.
Primary health organisations (PHO’s) are umbrella groups funded by the Government to run medical centres and community health programmes.
The merger decision follows a statement by Health Minister Tony Ryall that he wants the number of PHO’s to fall from 81 to 40 in the next year.
Nationally, the organisations receive $33 million a year in management fees from the Government. Mr Ryall says this needs to be redirected into front-line services.
He has singled out Capital and Coast District Health Board, which has seven PHO’s, and Hutt Valley District Health Board, which has five, as areas where mergers should go ahead.
The plan means 86 per cent of people living in the Capital and Coast district will be patients at doctors’ clinics run by the new super-PHO.
Labour’s health spokeswoman, Ruth Dyson, says this leaves pockets of patients – such as Kapiti’s elderly population – at risk of having their health needs neglected by a one-size-fits-all model.
“You need to know your communities to know what will work for them,” she says.
Ms Dyson says that if PHO’s became too large, this will be difficult, “even with the best of intentions.”