MPs fighting to retain overnight medical service

Local MPs Simeon Brown and Christopher Luxon are calling for East Care Accident and Medical’s overnight service to be funded so it can be re-established. Times photo Wayne Martin

East Auckland’s two local MPs are urging Counties Manukau District Health Board to urgently reinstate funding for East Care Accident and Medical so it can continue to offer its long-running overnight service.

Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown and Botany MP Christopher Luxon say they’re disappointed the medical centre in Botany Road “has been put into a position where they have to close their 24/7 overnight service”.

The 11pm-7am service has been operating for more than 20 years and will end on December 18.

East Care Group chief executive Gordon Armstrong announced the change on December 15.

“This is a move we have taken with enormous regret,” he says.

“We know better than most there is a significant need for the service we have been offering and that it’s highly prized within the community.

“But 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.”

Brown and Luxon say East Care has self-funded the overnight service for the past two years since the district health board cut its funding.

They say they will write to the health board’s chief executive, Margie Apa, to ask to meet with her to raise the community’s concerns and to request funding be reinstated urgently so the overnight service can be re-established.

“We would like to thank East Care for their commitment to providing the overnight service to east Auckland and the fact they have been subsidising this service for the past two years without funding from our DHB.

“East Care is a critical part of the east Auckland community which has gone above and beyond this year, particularly with Covid-19.

“East Auckland is now the only area in Auckland without an overnight service, despite having over 130,000 people and one of the fastest growing populations in New Zealand.”

The two MPs say the overnight service is “critically important” to the local community.

It’s the highest volume provider of overnight primary care in Auckland, they say.

“Its closure will also certainly have a significant impact on the accident and emergency department at Middlemore Hospital.”

Armstrong says the overnight service got off the ground without external funding.

In 2014 the DHB gave it financial support as a regional initiative to provide access to overnight care and maintain financial viability in the face of increasing healthcare costs.

The DHB reversed course in 2018.

Instead of delivering to its stated intention of having two funded overnight services in Counties Manukau, it elected none would be DHB-funded, Armstrong says.