Last week Christopher Luxon and I hosted a well-attended public meeting on health in east Auckland which served as an opportunity for the community to express how important their local healthcare system is to them.
This was spurred by last year’s closure of the overnight service at East Care following the loss of funding from the Counties Manukau District Health Board (DHB) in 2018.
We launched a petition calling for the reinstatement of this service which attracted more than 10,000 signatures within a week and resulted in last week’s public meeting. Both the CEO and Chair of the Counties Manukau DHB fronted up to explain why the decision was made to discontinue funding overnight primary healthcare.
The DHB’s reasoning for this decision essentially boils down to three factors:
1. A DHB deficit which they are trying to get under control.
2. A view that resources would be better targeted at after-hours services until 11pm, rather than an overnight option.
3. That Middlemore’s Emergency Department has the capacity to deal with any increased demand flowing from the closure of East Care’s overnight service.
The key issue here is that people on the ground are getting a mixed message from the DHB.
Just last Wednesday the DHB put out a media statement saying that for the previous 10 days, Counties Manukau Health has been dealing with significant pressure on acute services, with the Emergency Department (ED) seeing 187 patients on Tuesday night last week, compared to between 95 and 120 on a normal night.
Urgent care and emergency care are not the same thing, with the current policy settings putting all the medical needs of the Counties Manukau area into one place overnight. This works well if you have a real emergency, but not at all if you don’t.
We heard several stories of local residents travelling all the way out to Middlemore and never getting seen because they weren’t considered an emergency case.
This is where East Care thrived, seeing 20-30 patients each night who didn’t want to take up space in a hospital knowing others are in greater need, but wanted to see a doctor to make sure nothing was seriously wrong.
The good news is the DHB has committed to an independent review of their current contractual arrangements regarding overnight care, which will be completed over the next three months.
Christopher Luxon and I will be keeping a close eye on the result as well as ensuring the community is able to give their feedback to this important review.
- Simeon Brown, MP for Pakuranga