Residents rue lack of doctors in Golden Bay

CHARLOTTE SQUIRE
Last updated 12:20 17/02/2014

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A survey has found that many in western Golden Bay are unhappy with the loss of health services to the area.

Until last December two to three doctors, visiting from Takaka, had been available for regular consultations in Collingwood, though the service had been dwindling over the past year. This year a nurse is available to see patients each Monday.

Community board chairperson Carolyn McLellan has led a group of eight people, representing key community groups in the area, in surveying the opinions of over one quarter of the population of Golden Bay who live in the affected area.

Mrs McLellan said 720 people from 295 households were surveyed, representing 71 per cent of the normal population of western Golden Bay, according to the 2006 census.

The survey found that 89 per cent were concerned about a lack of healthcare services in Collingwood. It also found that 88 per cent of those surveyed would use any doctor, if the service was reinstated.

Other comments included people saying that fundraising and support was given to the new Integrated Family Health Centre in Takaka with the understanding that they would maintain their health services in Collingwood.

Some people were confused about where the funding for the rural doctors had gone and wondered whether more could be accessed.

Some were unhappy about a lack of consultation with the community prior to the service closing, saying they would have looked into raising funds for local equipment to bring it up to standard if they'd been communicated with earlier.

The Collingwood group said they believed decisions made had not only broken undertakings made to the community, but also failed to recognise the needs of the most isolated part of the health board area.

They said the area affected was highly productive in terms of export income from farming and tourism, with a scattered and often remote population. They also said Collingwood's secondary Golden Bay service centre has a broad range of services, including an area school, "that continues to make it a sensible and practical location for a doctor's surgery to service western Golden Bay".

"That is why such healthcare services operated in Collingwood from 1922 until the recent decisions which were implemented without consultation," they said in a statement.

As as member of Golden Bay Community Health Te Hauora o Mohua, the trust that provides the facility of the Integrated Family Health Centre in Takaka, Mrs McLellan said she and the rest of her community were assured that Collingwood would be "looked after" with their services being "in no way compromised" by a new building in Takaka.

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"What I really want to make sure we get clear is that the trust wanted a building for Golden Bay that future proofed the whole wide spectrum of services in Golden Bay. I'm as disappointed as a trustee as anybody else in Golden Bay.

"We've got two to three doctors who have come to Collingwood regularly. It's not that the doctors didn't want to come, it's a PHO funding issue, which stems from DHB funding," she said.

In response to the new survey result stating that 87 per cent of people surveyed were concerned about the loss of health services in western Golden Bay, chief executive for Nelson Bays Primary Health Andrew Swanson-Dobbs said the PHO was "committed to ensuring the best use of the funding we receive to meet the health needs of whole Golden Bay community".

He said he appreciated that the recent change in service configuration had "caused concern for some" but he felt confident the current arrangements "are the best for the revenue we receive".

"We are very grateful to the Collingwood school for the use of a building to provide services," he said.

Mr Swanson-Dobbs said he knew Golden Bay Community Health had faced a big challenge in deciding how to provide ongoing medical and nursing services to the residents of Collingwood, the Aorere Valley and western Golden Bay.

"Several factors affects this, including the cost of service to a small population, increasing compliance and audit requirements, changes in the required clinical standards and the need for duplication of equipment required in multiple sites. No additional subsidies are available to provide clinical services in Collingwood."

Collingwood has had a doctor since 1922 when a loan was secured by the ratepayers of Collingwood County to build a new doctor's residence and surgery on Beach Rd.

- Nelson

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