Funding fears for rural GPs

A Temuka GP fears all of New Zealand's rural practices will eventually be stripped of their after-hours funding if the Government does not provide the much-needed money and support.

GP Bryan Moore said this week that Temuka and Geraldine's on-call GP roster and after-hours services would end on August 16 after funding negotiations with the South Canterbury District Health Board failed to find a viable solution.

"I know it will happen elsewhere," Dr Moore said.

The move includes after-hours services offered by GP Diana Scott, of Geraldine, and all doctors in Temuka.

The 4 Peaks Health practice in Geraldine will continue to offer after-hours services to its patients.

A health board review of the system used to allocate rural funds resulted in Temuka falling below the funding threshold and being told it would no longer qualify from July 1.

However, the services were extended in the hope of finding an alternative funding option.

Temuka and Geraldine GPs, who run a shared after-hours roster, have a combined 13,000 people on their books, equating to 24.5 per cent of patients registered in South Canterbury.

Dr Moore said he expected that more medical centres would follow suit throughout the country. He was concerned that it would give graduate doctors another reason not to apply for jobs in rural practices.

"We've got a big, big problem and if you keep beating up on your GPs, you're going to get none."

Labour Party candidate for Rangitata Julian Blanchard said it was time that Health Minister Tony Ryall and Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew stepped in to save the South Canterbury services.

"Temuka may not officially qualify as a rural practice, but in reality, because of no public transport to get from Temuka to Timaru, as there is in other parts of the country where the funding has been cut, it makes Temuka a special case that needs to be investigated.

"The health board can only work with the budget that it has been given by the Government, a budget that is not adequate to meet the needs of our community."

Mrs Goodhew said she had spoken to Mr Ryall about the situation and intended to talk to board chief executive Chris Fleming about about what after-hour provisions would be made for people in Temuka and Geraldine.

Mr Fleming said the board was committed to ensuring primary care services were still available to the community and work on finding a long-term solution was continuing.

Board chairman Murray Cleverley said he was supportive of the actions taken by management to try to resolve the matter and of their efforts to ensure that services were available to the community.

The Timaru Herald