GP vouchers offered to get people out of emergency department

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
The Southern District Health Board is offering patients vouchers to get them out of Southland Hospital's emergency department and into GP clinics for free.

Southland Hospital is triaging and diverting patients from its emergency department to medical clinics as 104 patients on average show up there each day.

Southern DHB says the influx of winter illnesses is intensifying pressure on its ED, which can increase patient wait times.

Southland Hospital will digitally transfer patients who do not need to be in ED to two medical centres in Invercargill, He Puna Waiora Wellness Centre and Invercargill Medical Centre.

The DHB will cover the entire cost of appointments, which can be around $80. It did not have projections for how many appointments it could end up funding.

"We have not set a figure that we are anticipating, this trial which will help to inform this answer to the question," Southland Hospital general manager Simon Donlevy said.

"This initiative supports patients to get the care that they need in the most appropriate location and allows us to provide treatment to patients who need the Emergency Department in a more timely manner," Donlevy said.

There are further calls to make doctor's appointments more affordable so people go to GPs rather than the hospital.

WellSouth Primary Health Network chief executive Andrew Swanson-Dobbs wants more public funding to break down the cost barrier.

"I would love to see the cost of general practice decrease, the workforce increase, and the reliance on hospitals as a free general practice decrease so we really do need to see the investment," he said.

Swanson-Dobbs said primary health in Invercargill is under pressure too.

"We've still got Covid, we've got winter flus, other winter ailments, and then we have got normal everyday general practice presentations that we are working with those practices to help achieve," he said.

Hospitals in the Wellington region are also covering doctor appointments for patients who do not need to be in under-pressure EDs.

In South Auckland, 27 general practices offered free appointments over two weekends at the request of Counties Manukau Health Board because Middlemore Hospital's ED has been overwhelmed.



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