Urgent community care service restarted

20:00, Feb 28 2014

A pared down version of Horowhenua's Urgent Community Care service has been relaunched today following a review and funding cut.

The service began as a pilot involving members of Levin St John staff in 2010 with the aim of reducing patient transfers to Palmerston North Hospital by instead treating them at home, at a cost of about $761,000 a year.

St John was yesterday unable to give an exact figure on the new amount of Government funding they would receive, only that it was less than before.

Previously a 24/7 service, the relaunched version will operate just 12 hours a day, seven days a week. The service remains free for now, but there is a possibility a patient charge, in line with the costs of other medical services, may be implemented later this year.

Integration with other local health providers is also a priority, and St John district operations manager Steve Yanko said talks were already under way.

Horowhenua was chosen as an ideal place to test the scheme, having been identified as an area of high health needs, with a shortage of primary care services and a significant number of over-65s.


The pilot was stopped last year following an independent review by Sapere Research Group, which found it had not made a big enough dent in emergency department attendance to justify the cost of the scheme.

Mr Yanko said since the pilot was introduced, there had been a 15 per cent reduction in trips to Palmerston North Hospital for the ambulance. He did not think that the Horowhenua catchment was large enough to make a significant impact on the emergency department, hence Sapere's findings.

As a programme, it was being watched closely with a view to being rolled out in other areas, and combined could make a sizeable difference, he said. A walk-in clinic, where people could be seen by a paramedic and a nurse, was also up for discussion and may find a home in a custom-built space in a proposed new St John ambulance building in Levin.

Failing that, those staff could work out of the existing health centre in conjunction with staff there.

Possible fees and a walk-in clinic remained under development and were subject to Ministry of Health approval.

While the scheme was being remodelled, a Horowhenua After-hours Clinic operating out of the Horowhenua Health Centre opened at the end of last year, operating every week night from 5pm to 7.30pm and from 8am to 5.30pm weekends and public holidays.

Mr Yanko said they saw that as another opportunity for integration.

Manawatu Standard