Hard for patients to see doctor

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 07:34 24/03/2014
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About one in three adults and one in three children in the MidCentral region have experienced hardship in getting their needs met by a doctor.

Regional results released this month from the 2011-2013 Ministry of Health's New Zealand Health Survey show both adults and children in the MidCentral District Health Board area experienced unmet need for primary healthcare during a 12-month period.

The 25 to 44 years age group had the highest level of unmet need in the region with 39.3 per cent of those surveyed, including reasons such as they were unable to get an appointment at their usual medical centre within 24 hours, prescription fees were too high, GP fees were too high, or they had a lack of transport.

The national result for the same age group was 32.6 per cent.

The 65-plus age group experienced the lowest unmet need for primary care in the region, with 16.9 per cent of respondents indicating cost, transport and waiting times were barriers to primary care treatment.

The national result for the same age group was 16.8 per cent.

In the region, 33.1 per cent of girls under 14 years and 28.4 per cent of boys had unmet needs.

Nationally, 19.9 per cent of girls and 19.3 per cent of boys had the same issues.

Respondents from all groups had about 80 per cent confidence and trust in their GP.

Primary healthcare senior portfolio manager Craig Johnston said within any community there would always be a level of unmet health need, particularly in communities where people were spread across a wide geographical area.

"Half of our population lives in small towns and rural areas where providing health services is a challenge," he said. "Our district also has a high proportion of people who are aged over 65, particularly in Horowhenua and Otaki, which is remote from Palmerston North.

"We also have many young people living temporarily in Palmerston North as students, and they often don't connect in with primary healthcare services, relying instead on the emergency department."

Mr Johnston said it was noticeable that the major urban centres such as Auckland and Christchurch had lower levels of unmet need, which was partly related to the concentration of people. "These centres also have many more GPs and general practice teams - which is a situation that the rest of New Zealand can't replicate," he said.

"These survey results relate to the period 2011-13, and since that time, a significant number of new services have been started in our district."

Mr Johnston said MidCentral DHB and Central PHO had been working very hard over recent years to improve primary health services and provide better access to care.

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This included improving the way long-term conditions like diabetes are managed, streamlining care for common conditions, upskilling the health work force and supporting the development of larger, multi-disciplinary healthcare teams through Integrated Family Health Centres, he said.

Mr Johnston said enrolling with a general practice team was an important first step in getting access to care.

"There are three programmes to assist with this, including the Newborn Enrolment programme, GP waiting list service, and the Whanau Ora programme," he said.

The health board and the PHO have also launched a range of new specialist health services in the community to improve access to care for children, including eczema and respiratory specialist nurse-led clinics, the Youth One Stop Shop and School Based Health Services.

- Manawatu Standard

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