Vouchers to stem flow to ED

19:39, Feb 17 2013

An initiative to stop people with minor ailments using the emergency department as their first port of call has started in Blenheim.

The emergency department voucher scheme, operated by the Marlborough Primary Health Organisation (PHO), is designed to encourage people to visit their GP first.

The organisation's associate director of nursing, Glenis McAlpine, said the voucher was for patients with a community services card who did not need immediate treatment. It granted the patient a free consultation with their doctor within two days, she said.

The PHO would reimburse the practice for that consultation.

"The focus behind the scheme is to discourage people from using the emergency department but to go to their medical home, which is their GP," she said.

Any patients not registered with a clinic would be helped to enrol, Mrs McAlpine said.


The two-day time limit to make a doctor's appointment was not set in stone and could be extended if needed, she said.

The new voucher scheme was discussed at the organisation's clinical governance committee meeting on Thursday.

Committee chairwoman and Blenheim GP Ros Gellatly said a similar initiative had been trialled in Nelson.

It was recognised that some people used the emergency department because of financial constraints, Dr Gellatly said. However, some triage nurses weren't comfortable asking patients about their financial status.

"That's why we are asking for a community services card, it's more objective and neutral," she said.

Patients would not be turned away from the emergency department, Dr Gellatly said.

"They are not going to say, ‘no, we won't treat you'. It's a positive move - let's see how it goes."

The scheme does not cover prescription costs.

The Marlborough Express