PHOs ‘essential’ in face of Covid-19

Covid-19 has provided a compelling argument why primary health organisations must survive any revamping of the health system, WellSouth chairman Doug Hill says.

The future of PHOs was cast into doubt by the Simpson review of the health system, which among its far-reaching recommendations included a re-imagining of general practice which could see PHOs scrapped.

Dr Hill told the WellSouth annual meeting in Dunedin yesterday that Covid-19 had dispelled any argument that PHOs were not a critical part of the health system.

"When we have adversity like we have, it is when an organisation shows its true worth and WellSouth has truly demonstrated our worth."

Dr Hill said the photograph on the cover of the organisation’s annual report — which showed clinicians waiting to test people for Covid-19 following a positive test by a Logan Park High School pupil — epitomised the southern Covid-19 story.

"In the morning we didn’t know about how to give tests or set up a testing centre and didn’t know what was involved; by lunchtime we were testing 450 people, and it was an amazing effort logistically to get that up and running.

"Primary care has done around half of all Covid testing, which is a massive change for primary care, and it has been a truly remarkable step up.

"The Simpson report, which was written pre-Covid, raised some doubt about the place of PHOs in the future, but after the events of the initial arrival and now living with Covid, we realise that having a direct connection between community providers and an organisation that represents them and knows what is happening in primary care is not just important but it’s essential."

It had been a productive year for the PHO, which even before the advent of Covid-19 had introduced improvements and new programmes across the health system, Dr Hill said.

"It hasn’t been all about Covid — what we do as an organisation is remarkable."

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

WellSouth

81 practices, 315,027 enrolled patients.
COVID-19
3 Community-based assessment centres 
(CBAC) and GP practices
20,000+ Covid-19 tests
195 staff rostered to CBACs
18,507 combined hours worked in all 
CBACs

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