Central after-hours GP service to close

The review calls for more training for doctors and better planning by families for end-of-life...
The funding the service received was "inequitable'' and "inconsistent'' for its patients compared with other services across the region. Photo: Getty Images

A district-wide Central Otago after-hours GP service is set to close at the beginning of next month because of a "staffing crisis''.

A letter obtained by the Otago Daily Times, written by Central Otago After Hours Inc practice manager Jenaya Smith and addressed to health officials and politicians, said the service had "no other option'' but to stop operating by July 1 because it could not fill its roster.

The after-hours service had operated at Dunstan Hospital in Clyde, which does not have an emergency department, since November 2015 from 6pm-8am seven days a week.

Ms Smith's letter said the service had a "staffing crisis'' because of staff leaving.

She also said it put stress on doctors and seemed inefficient to be operating from May to October "given the small number of patients who access our service during this period''.

The letter said the funding the service received was "inequitable'' and "inconsistent'' for its patients compared with other services across the region.

It said the board had a "genuine willingness'' to be involved in a change to the service.

Ms Smith did not return calls yesterday when contacted by the Otago Daily Times.

Central Otago After Hours chairwoman Dr Kate Dixon, of Alexandra's Central Medical Centre refused to comment yesterday but said a press statement would be issued in due course.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said he had not heard about the closure but would make inquiries.

Central Otago Health Services Ltd chief executive Karyn Penno said the community needed to work together to identify a solution.

"After hours is incredibly important to us and I'm sure that everybody will work together to meet the needs of our community.''

The Southern District Health Board said it could not provide a response yesterday.



It is time the medical facilities in Central Otago via Dunstan Hospital joined the 21st century. Dunstan Hospital does not have an 'after hours service' as claimed in this article. All the hospital provides is the name of the after hours GP who is on call on a particular day. Currently the only way a sick or injured person can be admitted directly into Dunstan Hospital is by ambulance, or via a referral from the after hours GP. This is unacceptable and needs to be fixed by the opening of an accident and emergency department at the hospital. As a recent patient of the hospital I observed the fact that several doctors wander the corridors of Dunstan Hospital during the day but do not cross the corridor into the public area to offer their services by way of an accident and emergency department in the very same building.