Call for calm on after-hours medical care.

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Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan has issued a ‘‘call for calm’’ as stakeholders consider the future of after-hours healthcare in the region.
His statement is the latest of several he has made about changes to after-hours health care.
Central Otago After Hours Inc (COAH) has cut its service, provided by Central Otago GPs at Dunstan Hospital, from 6pm-8am to 6pm-10pm.
COAH announced the change six days before it took effect on November 1, blaming financial and staffing strain.
Residents needing care between 10pm and 8am now need to either phone 111 or use the after-hours GP telephone triaging service already in place, which would advise them whether they should phone 111, drive to their nearest emergency department or visit their GP the following day.
Mr Cadogan said he was ‘‘as surprised as anyone’’ by COAH’s announcement, having previously been involved in discussions about after-hours healthcare.
He said he had asked to be involved in the next rounds of discussions between Central Otago GPs, WellSouth, the Southern District Health Board and Dunstan Hospital management about the after-hours service, ‘‘so the community has a voice’’.
Mr Cadogan said there had been ‘‘considerable concern in the community’’ about the changes, ‘‘and that is understandable’’.
But he emphasised the changes were an interim measure and stakeholders were hoping to have a longer-term Central Otago after-hours service in place after February 1.
He also reiterated that the telephone triaging system patients previously accessed by phoning their regular GP number after hours was still in place and had not changed.
The COAH statement said COAH board members would not comment further about the issue but would ‘‘continue to be proactive’’ and work with stakeholders towards creating a longer term Central Otago after hours service.
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean has criticised the changes, saying she was worried a decrease in services would affect patient safety, particularly if an ambulance was not available and patients had to get themselves to an emergency department.
SDHB executive director strategy, primary and community Lisa Gestro said it was important Central Otago residents realised they would still be seen by a Dunstan Hospital doctor after hours if that was what St John staff responding to a 111 call decided was needed.