Saturday, May 18, 2024

Health NZ rejects calls to fund East Care’s overnight service

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Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown says he regularly hears from constituents about the lack of access to medical services locally. Times file photo Wayne Martin
  • By Simeon Brown, MP for Pakuranga

I was incredibly disappointed to hear that Health NZ, the newly-created entity in charge of health services across the country, continues to reject the reinstatement of overnight urgent care services at East Care.

Since DHB funding for overnight care was cut in 2018 and the eventual closure of this service in late 2020, the lack of such health services in our part of Auckland has been one of the most common complaints I hear from constituents.

It is simply not good enough for health authorities to claim that Middlemore Hospital is a sufficient option for those living in east Auckland. It is a significant journey for many people in our area and their emergency department is constantly overcrowded and understaffed.

It is no secret that Middlemore has been struggling of late with demand far outstripping their capacity, resulting in long wait times for after-hours medical care.

The fact remains that there are a substantial number of medical problems that require urgent care but do not warrant the resources of a fully-equipped hospital emergency department.

This was where services like East Care proved to be so valuable, as they were able to handle non-emergency issues in a local setting, preserving hospital resources for those in more critical situations.

The reality today is even worse than it was when funding was originally cut, with constant reports of how bad things are getting in our hospitals.

Unfortunately, instead of focusing on frontline services, the Government has embarked on a wholesale centralisation of the health system by creating this new Health NZ entity and getting rid of local DHBs.

While the entire purpose of the government’s centralisation strategy and the creation of Health NZ was to, in their words, “improve access to healthcare on the basis of need for all New Zealanders”, we are yet to see how these reforms will accomplish this.

We all know that the health system and health workforce are under immense pressure, yet it is critical that Government’s expenditure is focused on driving better outcomes for New Zealanders, rather than just creating new bureaucracies.

Christopher Luxon and I will continue to advocate for the reinstatement of overnight urgent care services in east Auckland alongside the more than 10,000 east Auckland locals who signed our petition calling for these services to be reinstated.

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