COHSL studies primary care health options

Central Otago Health Services Ltd is investigating the possibility of moving into primary healthcare, but will not be starting up a new GP medical practice, its leaders say.

The organisation, which runs Dunstan Hospital and its associated allied health services, had been thinking of moving into primary care since late last year, when the Southern District Health Board released its primary and community strategy proposing to shift more healthcare into the primary sector and develop a ``hub and spoke'' model of shared care, COHSL manager Karyn Penno said.

Moving into primary care would also be a way of bringing in extra income for the organisation and making it more resilient financially.

Ms Penno and the Otago Daily Times have received feedback from Central Otago GPs and members of the public that they felt it would be inappropriate for it to establish a new medical practice and compete commercially with existing GP practices.

But Ms Penno said that, while the idea of investigating COHSL's involvement in primary healthcare was ``still just an idea'' and had no detail or timeframe, it had already ruled out establishing a new GP practice, either within the Dunstan Hospital building or elsewhere.

``The one thing we have decided is to not set up a new practice.''

Karyn Penno
Karyn Penno
Ms Penno said there was no firm proposal yet about what a move into primary care could look like. It could involve partnering with or buying an existing practice, or it could involve working with GP practices for things such as bulk purchase of consumables, or in areas such as IT.

COHSL had called a meeting on the idea with members of the health sector last month and about 40 GPs, practice managers and allied health professionals attended.

No firm ideas had come from the meeting, other than the feeling COHSL should not be setting up a competing medical practice, Ms Penno said.

She said whatever COHSL decided about any move into primary care, it would only do so if it was ``for the best of the patients and the community and the [health] system''.

She reminded the public the organisation formally entering into primary healthcare would not be ``such a leap''.

Many people thought of COHSL and Dunstan's services as ``just Dunstan Hospital'', but both supported various allied health services such as district nursing, occupational therapy, outpatient services, chemotherapy, social workers and a child development team that were already ``halfway between primary and secondary care''.

Southern District Health Board executive director, strategy, primary and community directorate, Lisa Gestro said COHSL's discussions about moving into primary healthcare were ``completely in line with the objectives central to our [SDHB's] primary and community strategy to provide better integrated healthcare services, making best use of our resources and valuing patients' time''.

In the SDHB region, both Balclutha and Gore had integrated primary care models run out of their hospitals, Ms Gestro said.

Ms Penno hoped to have a ``clearer picture'' within three months.

pam.jones@odt.co.nz

 

 

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