GP visits 'not viable' in Golden Bay town
Collingwood residents can no longer see a doctor in their community, with health providers saying the visits aren't economically viable.
Two to three doctors, visiting from Takaka, had been available for regular consultations up until last week, though the service had been dwindling over the past year.
Now instead they will have to go to the new Integrated Family Health Centre in Takaka, which is a 30-minute drive from Collingwood.
Bainham resident Carolyn McLellan said people were "pretty upset" about the changes because they'd been repeatedly assured there would continue to be a doctor's surgery in Collingwood.
"All through the years of planning that's been a given. I've checked in and checked in, and they've reassured us. Unfortunately the PHO [Primary Health Organisation] have pulled the plug on doctors, they're citing economic factors."
She said "a lot of people" in Paturau, Mangarakau, Pakawau, Rockville, Bainham and the Heaphy area would miss the service.
"It's not just the people of Collingwood. We're talking about people who take three-quarters of an hour to get to Collingwood. If you're crook it's really nice having a local doctor."
She said Rural Women intended to survey the Collingwood community to gauge feelings about the loss of the service. They would now turn to the Ministry of Health to investigate options, including the possibility of employing their own doctor again.
She said the Collingwood community had "rallied" to support the new Integrated Family Health Centre, and the Joan Whiting Rest Home over the years, and "at no stage did they think they would lose their service out here".
"Having a doctor's surgery in Collingwood is pivotal, people would move away."
Mrs McLellan said she appreciated Golden Bay Integrated Family Health Centre service director Rhoda McDonald's efforts to "make something work". She also said "everyone's delighted" about the new health centre in Takaka. "We want to continue with the lovely service we have out here."
Ms McDonald said the service would continue, but not in its original form.
The old dental clinic at Collingwood Area School was currently being turned into a nurse's clinic which would include blood tests, requests for prescriptions and other nursing services for people with chronic conditions, saying "there's a lot that can be done by the nurse".
Ms McDonald said students at Collingwood Area School would be able to use the service. She had organised the Wrinklies Express minibus to transport people to the doctors at the Integrated Family Health Centre each Tuesday and Thursday.
She said Golden Bay Community Health had faced a "big challenge" in deciding how to provide ongoing nursing services to residents of Collingwood, the Aorere Valley and western Golden Bay because there was no additional funding to provide clinical services in Collingwood.
She said the cost of a service to a small population, increasing compliance and audit requirements, changes in the required clinical standards and the need for duplication of equipment in multiple sites had all been factors in the decision.
Dr Struan Clark, who had been one of two regular doctors to practise in Collingwood, said he was "sad" to stop the Collingwood visits.
"I understand how they feel, that I think strictly speaking we said the service would continue, we didn't say in what form. I think this situation has been triggered by us not being able to stay at the Joan Whiting. The set-up costs for a new place would have been huge."
Dr Clark said whereas with three doctors visiting the Collingwood surgery they would have seen around 30 patients, in a "normal working day" in Takaka they'd see 60 to 85 people daily between the doctors.
Nelson Marlborough District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming said he was aware of the loss of regular visits to the community due to lack of available funding. All health providers were required to make "tough decisions" about the provision of services. "The planning for health services in Golden Bay has been over many years and many of the assumptions made in earlier days were subsequently identified as being inadequate.
"This has meant priority over resourcing to ensure services provided through the Golden Bay Community Health Centre are sustainable and available for the benefit of all people in Golden Bay."
The Nelson Mail