Saturday, May 18, 2024

Chen blames National for loss of East Care overnight service

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Labour MP Naisi Chen says the Government has invested $9 billion in New Zealand’s health system. Photo supplied

An east Auckland-based Labour MP says underfunding of the health system by the previous National Government is to blame for the closing of east Auckland’s only local overnight medical service.

The after-hours service at East Care Accident and Medical in Botany shut down in late 2020.

It had operated for more than two decades.

Its funding was provided by the now former Counties Manukau District Health Board from 2014-2018, then by East Care itself until it ceased.

Since then locals needing overnight medical care have had to go to Middlemore Hospital in south Auckland, which is putting extra strain on the hospital’s emergency department.

Botany-based Labour list MP Naisi Chen says the loss of the only local overnight medical service was “devastating” for east Aucklanders.

“I’ve been in regular contact with East Care since then and believe they did their best to continue providing this vital service, including operating it at a loss for several years.

“Cuts like this have occurred because the previous National Government underfunded the district health boards (DHBs).

“I believe Labour’s record investment of $9.02 billion into health should have been sufficient to restore funding for a 24-hour emergency room [locally].

“I have previously made this view clear to the DHB and will continue to advocate for an overnight medical service in east Auckland under the new Health NZ structure.”

A spokesperson for Te Whatu Ora – Health NZ says there are no plans “at this stage” to reinstate overnight care funding for East Care.

“However, we are always reviewing our service options to make sure we’re doing our best to meet the needs of our Counties Manukau community.

“It’s important to note overall demand is high across the system, including primary and urgent care clinics, all of which are operating at high capacity.

“In 2018 we doubled our investment in after-hours care.

“This investment consists of funding eight after-hours care clinics in the region, four of which are funded until 11pm, including East Care in Botany.”

The spokesperson says such funding enables the clinics to provide free or low-cost care for children under 14 years old, adults aged over 65, and Community Service Card or High User Health Card holders.

Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown says the decision by Counties Manukau DHB to cut funding for East Care’s overnight service has been a “significant setback” for locals.

“Following a petition and a public meeting organised by myself and Botany MP Christopher Luxon [on East Care], a community representative group was formed to lobby for better overnight care services in east Auckland.

“Unfortunately Covid lockdowns, the Omicron outbreak and Labour’s ill-timed restructure of the DHBs, have made it difficult to get traction to reinstate overnight funding.

“This remains a major issue within our community and one that constituents continue to raise with me on a regular basis.

“The desire and demand for a local overnight service is high, particularly when you consider east Auckland has a population the size of Dunedin.

“Christopher Luxon and I will continue to advocate for locally-delivered overnight health services in east Auckland.”

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