The NZ Nurses Organisation (NZNO)says its shocked that the Capital and Coast District Health Board is considering removing the last after-hours health service in the Porirua area.
Its remarks echo a call from an emergency doctor to keep the clinic open.
Under the plan, the accident and medical clinic at Kenepuru Hospital would close from 10pm to 8am, seven days a week.
The NZNO says the Board made the decision to investigate the possibility of replacing after-hours services with a roving paramedic service for over 100,000 people at a secret Board meeting and are not considering any other options.
The NZNO is the union and professional voice for nurses throughout the country. Organiser Laura Thomas says:
OK to disadvantage low socio-economic group?
“We can’t help but wonder what would happen if the DHB decided to do the same in Wellington. Even thinking about that is laughable. The DHB seems to think that it’s OK to disadvantage a low socio-economic population with high health needs though.
“Residents in the region north of Wellington suffer some of the highest rates of preventable illness in New Zealand and yet their current after-hours health service is not free and now the DHB is trying to take it away altogether.
Emergency doctor worried too
And the possible closure of the accident and medical clinic has been labelled ‘dangerous’ by emergency doctor Rob Kieboom.
“If it goes ahead, people would have to wait in their homes for medical treatment or drive to Wellington Hospital – something many low-income families could not afford,” Dr Kieboom has told the Dompost.
Dr Kieboom has worked at the clinic as a contracted doctor for five years and works one overnight shift each week, alongside two emergency trained nurses.
He questions whether paramedics, who are not medically trained, have the skills and equipment necessary to assess and treat acute patients in their homes.
“Maori and Pacific Island children have high rates of meningitis, rheumatic fever, acute respiratory distress and sepsis [blood poisoning]. Older patients have a high incidence of strokes, heart attacks and acute abdominal pain,” he says.
“These sort of patients present to the centre overnight. These patients cannot wait for . . . a paramedic to come to their house.”
Nurses’ union outlines case for DHB
In its detailed statemen, the Nurses Union also urges the DHB to ensure “everyone in their catchment can access the health care they need when and where they need it, not downgrade it.”
Organiser Laura Thomas says: “Demand on the current service is increasing and the DHB should be facilitating easier access to it.
“We are also sceptical of the reasons for the change put forward by the DHB. It is our understanding that the current after-hours service is entirely cost-effective and that cutting it would only increase pressure on an already stretched emergency department at Wellington Hospital.
“NZNO will be continuing to urge the DHB to consider proposals that would prioritise the health of the residents of Kapiti and Porirua. We will not let 100 000 people become the victims of short-sighted ‘cost-cutting’ measures.”
New Zealand Nurses Organisation
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) is the leading professional body of nurses and nursing union in Aotearoa New Zealand, representing more than 45 000 nurses and health workers. Te Runanga o Aotearoa is the arm through which our Te Tiriti o Waitangi partnership is articulated.
Its members include nurses, midwives, students, kaimahi hauora, health care workers and allied health professionals. The NZNO vision is “Freed to care, Proud to nurse”. Our members enhance the health and well-being of all people of Aotearoa New Zealand and are united in their professional and industrial aspirations.
Comment by Kris Faafoi:-
“I realise there may be concern but I think there could be some real benefit for our communities in the new proposed model.
“I am waiting to see more detail but I know that the overnight service is a serious threat of financial viability and the alternative being proposed could see families who require urgent medical care get it in their own homes rather than having to travel to After Hours.
“In the end the level of service is the key factor. I have been told the trial of the service in the Kapiti Coast has been successful and I can see some benefit to having medical support going to patients, especially those families who may not have transport.
“Whatever service is offered it has to be at the same level as going into Kenepuru A&M. I look forward to seeing more detail. Patient service is the priority.”