Rest-home’s in-house services cut due to staff shortages

Continuing staff shortages have led a rural health provider to terminate in-house services for a South Otago rest-home.

Clutha Health First (CHF) acting chief executive Gary Reed confirmed yesterday the facility would cease to provide GP services to Heritage Lifecare Clutha Views Lifecare & Village in Balclutha from December 21, "due to significant constraints in general practice".

Mr Reed said CHF had worked with the rest-home to ensure continuity of service, and there would be no negative impact on care for residents at the home.

The move reflected long-standing recruitment issues that were affecting the health sector at large, he said.

"We’re still one to one-and-a-half GPs short which, as you know, has affected other elements of our service to the community.

"This is a contractual and business decision, whereby we have a limited resource capability, which will not be sufficient to meet the increase in needs at Clutha Views.

"So we’ve terminated the contract to ensure they can obtain the level of service they require."

In a letter to residents seen by the Otago Daily Times, Clutha Views management says MonARC Health will assume service provision for the facility.

The letter said MonARC would provide "enhanced services to ... residents" via nurse practitioners, including prescriptions and referrals.

Balclutha resident Barbara Neale, whose 89-year-old mother lives at Clutha Views, said she and others were disappointed Clutha Health First was pulling out.

"If this is supposed to be our local GP service, why are we outsourcing, with all the expense that’s likely to entail?

"It’s also a worry because what does it mean for the next generation coming down the track? If our local service can’t take care of us, who will?"

Mrs Neale said she was not concerned about a possible reduction in service under the new provider.

"I used to be a geriatric nurse, and the work nurse practitioners do is excellent. It’s just concerning our local GPs don’t seem able to cope."

Mr Reed said the government was now taking steps to address the nationwide staffing shortfall, although any effects would take time to emerge.

"It’s a perfect storm of an ageing population and a gap in new trainees coming through at the necessary time. So we’re also taking steps as a facility to address the shortages."

He said a multimedia recruitment campaign had begun, illustrating the benefits of living and working in South Otago, using first-person testimonials from current staff.

"We’re hopeful of some positive results very soon."