PAC means better after-hours care

Last updated 12:23 11/10/2012

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South Taranaki Star

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The South Taranaki Star has had numerous calls about changes to the systems at Southcare. Reporter Petra Finer sat down with Southcare Trust chairwoman Ella Borrows to answer some community questions. --------------------

Southcare says moving to a Hamilton-based call centre is a step toward improved health access in South Taranaki.

The new centralised call centre (PAC), managed by Midlands Health Network and Medibank, is already in use and has been taking up to 1200 calls a week on the provider's behalf.

Southcare Trust chair Ella Borrows said that as part of this, an administration structure review was in place, with the possibility of some current staff losing their jobs.

"To me it's about streamlining the health access that you'll have . . . if you ring up in the middle of the night and you need some assurance and some advice, I think it's a great service to be able to offer Hawera."

Mrs Borrows said the decision was not made, and was not being made, lightly. They were in a consultation process.

"The model that we follow for the integrated health care centre suggests two [reception staff], whether that works for Southcare and Hawera, I don't know. We need to find that out," she said.

The PAC was similar to current call centres providing health advice such as Plunketline or Healthline, she said.

"Part of our integrated family health care model is to provide shorter waiting lists," she said.

"We've been able to do a lot of that by having greater doctor numbers but it's also about streamlining how people can access health care.

"PAC is a part of the general practice team at Southcare and as such has access to the medical records in the same way as Southcare staff do."

One benefit to the PAC centre was that it was now easier to provide good after-hours care, she said.

"It means that the calls go through there, they've got 10 customer services reps and two nurses and a clinical manager," she said.

If somebody calls, they can talk to a nurse and be triaged immediately. It will also be useful to those wanting reassurance or information. Patients who call during practice hours needing a same-day appointment will be transferred to the Hawera clinic for triaging and to talk directly with a local nurse.

"It's not going to alter the service," she said.

"You are still going to be assessed based on your medical condition and you still can be put through to the practice to speak to a nurse or a doctor or to have that appointment made just as you ask."

She said the move was not a cost-cutting measure.

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"If we make some changes in the staffing, of course it'll save some money," she said.

"But is that our priority? No, it's not."

- Taranaki

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