Doctors' practices to merge into one
Three popular medical centres in Palmerston North with a combined patient population of 16,000 have announced plans to merge as an integrated family heath clinic.
Nine GP shareholders from Albert Street Medical Centre, Amesbury Health Centre and Vivian Street Health Centre will form Kauri Health Care in April. GP shareholder Tim Crowe, from Albert Street Medical Centre, said the three practices would remain working at their independent premises for about a year before moving to a purpose-built site.
"We will call it a virtual IFHC to begin with, so we will work across the three sites with joint management," he said. "Patients will still continue to attend the same site and see the same GP team initially, but they will start to see some sharing for staff across the practices.
"There might even be services where the patients will be asked to attend other sites, long-term condition management clinics for example."
Dr Crowe said work on integrating the three practices had been in the pipeline since the end of 2012.
"It's very exciting but also very challenging - it's not just complex computer systems we're merging but three teams so payroll, leave and staff contracts," he said.
"Now we've got to the point where we are about to appoint a board of directors and senior staff.
"We've had support from everyone and obviously the Ministry of Health is pushing for the IFHC development so they've been great in providing us support."
Dr Crowe said there were 16,000 patients across the three practices but shareholders wanted to increase that.
"One of the abilities of working in a larger group is servicing a larger population," he said. "There are still some people in the MidCentral District Health Board region who don't have a regular doctor so it would certainly be beneficial to them."
And a larger practice with more staff on the books would also help attract GPs to the city, he said.
"A lot of smaller practices are closing down and GPs can't sell them, we don't want that to happen," he said. "We want to do something sustainable and leave a legacy for the city."
Dr Crowe said shareholders were still working through the financial aspects of combining the practices and tying down intricacies.
"We want it to be a strong teaching practice and drive a new model of care, with new roles and development for nurses, and allow for upskilling," he said. GP shareholder Andy Greenway, from Vivian St Healthcare Centre, said the rationale behind the merge was to work more collaboratively and innovatively.
"It's about working with the nurses more and everyone involved in healthcare, not just the GP team," he said. "Part of what we're trying to do is improve things to give a better service."
Much of the plans were driven by wanting to help those with more complex needs like chronic conditions, and the ageing population.
"Need is going to increase, so we've got to start working smarter," he said. "It's about how we provide quality care with the same amount of resources."
Vivian St practice manager Vicki Smith said the change was exciting for staff and patients.
"[It] is a really positive thing because we are all like-minded practices," she said. "We hope the transition will be as seamless as possible, but inevitably there could be some minor inconveniences."