Timaru GPs' patient books closed

Times are tough finding a doctor in Timaru.

The Herald understands there are no GPs taking on new patients, something one new resident found out the hard way when her young son fell ill this week.

The mother, who declined to be named, said she tried to get him in to a doctor, but was told the books were "closed".

She rang her friends' doctors and a Plunket nurse, but was told it would be difficult to secure a place because many of the practices were full.

A spokesperson for South Link Health, which keeps a list of GPs who can take new patients, yesterday said one GP was on that list.

However, when The Herald contacted the GP's surgery, it confirmed it had closed its books earlier in the week.

The mother, who works in the health industry, was understanding of the situation, and realised the more people on GPs' books, the longer the waiting times.

However, she could not understand why there were no options for the community to fall back on.

She was tempted to take her son to Timaru Hospital's emergency department, but decided to monitor him at home instead.

"If I had a GP I would have taken him there that day."

With the help of her sister, the woman managed to get into a GP after explaining her situation and the fact her other child was also due for immunisation shots.

South Canterbury District Health Board chief executive Nigel Trainor said practices do still take patients on, particularly family members of current patients.

He advised people new to town to contact South Link Health for assistance in enrolling with a GP.

"Not all GPs have spaces available for new enrolments, but South Link Health can co-ordinate the best GP options for you."

Trainor said emergency doctors will see patients as needed, but would not enrol them. The emergency doctor rostered on works weekdays, after hours and is the emergency department GP contact at weekends.

"If people are sick outside business hours and need to [see] a GP they should phone the after-hours GP line, 03 684 8209.

"A registered nurse will answer the phone and direct you to the appropriate care," Trainor said.

South Link Health can be contacted on 687 7120.

The Timaru Herald