GPs may be key to savings

Rural doctors receiving training for some minor specialist procedures could help the Southern District Health Board achieve its goal of getting more services for less cost, Clutha Health First chief executive Ray Anton says.

At a consultation session for the board's proposed future health services held in Balclutha yesterday, Mr Anton said he had optimism for the plan but he wanted it to be more than ''aspirational''. He wanted real steps clearly laid out.

He said rural hospitals could offer more for their communities.

''The heavy lifting is being carried by the GPs, but there is some specialty work that does go to the centre that doesn't need to anymore,'' Mr Anton said.

''I'd say a huge chunk of the spending on health is being spent on those big hospitals. Cardiac surgeries, hip replacements, they're very expensive procedures. You need specialist training, equipment and theatres.

''The question is how much more can we carve out of that and shift it into primary, shift it into community care?'' He wanted work to be done to ''teach the GPs to do more of those things that they are not doing''.

Dr Pim Allen told the small crowd 96% of care was provided to people in their own communities at present and the health board's draft 10-year strategic plan was a response to a declining population and a ''persistent financial deficit''.

Understanding the people who needed care in each community could help establish priorities.

Whereas Queenstown might be children-focused, Clutha might need to consider aged care.

SDHB chief executive Carole Heatly said Clutha Health provided ''a really good model'' of where more could be done within the community.

''It's not just the doctor in the room,'' she said.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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