East Care petition backed by thousands

MPs Christopher Luxon, left, and Simeon Brown are behind a petition asking for East Care’s overnight medical service to be reinstated. Times photo Wayne Martin

More than 10,000 people signed a petition calling for what was east Auckland’s only overnight medical service to be reinstated.

The 11pm-7am service provided by East Care Accident and Medical in Botany Road ceased operating on December 18 last year.

East Care Group chief executive Gordon Armstrong said at the time that it was a move “taken with enormous regret”.

“We have found ourselves increasingly caught between a rock and a hard place, to the point where we can no longer provide a safe and high-quality overnight operation.”

Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB) funded the overnight medical service from 2014-2018.

East Care funded it since then but shut it down last December.

Botany MP Christopher Luxon and Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown have collected 10,454 signatures on a petition calling for the service to be reinstated.

They’ve met with Counties Manukau Health chief executive Margie Apa and her executive leadership team as well as the DHB’s board to discuss the issue.

“It was a pretty constructive meeting,” Luxon told the Times about the face-to-face with Apa.

“We outlined our concerns around the loss of the service and they shared with us how they thought it would work running the emergency service out of Middlemore Hospital.”

Luxon says several constituents recently told him about negative experiences at the hospital’s emergency department.

“It’s just a poor customer experience, with people sitting on the floor or being told to go away and come back later when a doctor’s on. Middlemore is overwhelmed.”

He points out east Auckland is the only part of the city without local afterhours or 24/7 care.

“People are travelling a long way to Middlemore and often these people are in quite a lot of pain and discomfort.”

Brown says people who live in suburbs such as Beachlands and Maraetai will have to travel even further to get to Middlemore Hospital.

“That’s where East Care played an important role, not just for our suburbs but communities further away.

“It provided access to health care when people needed it.”

He says the DHB is “short of cash” and “looking to save money where they can”.

“Their view around waiting times and service delivery and staffing is quite different to the community’s expectations.

“We are talking about a cut in service level for our community, which I don’t think they fully appreciate.”

A spokesperson for Counties Manukau Health says it reviewed its services in 2017 and worked with providers to ensure it could concentrate them where they’re most needed.

That saw it increase its investment in after-hours clinics, doubling the number available to the community to eight.

That number includes East Care, which continues to be funded by Counties Manukau Health until 11pm.

“These clinics are open on weekends / public holidays and up to 11pm on weekdays,” the spokesperson says.

“They provide free or low-cost care for children under 14 years old, adults over 65, and Community Service Card or High User Health Card holders.

“We’re confident this investment best meets the needs of the Counties Manukau community.

“There are also a number of general practices in the local community which operate extended hours into the evening and on weekends.

“This year we’re undertaking a scheduled review of our urgent care service offerings to ensure they continue to best meet the needs of our community.”