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Keeping People Out Of Hospital

28 May 2002

SITUATIONS such as that faced by Hutt Hospital's emergency department, where staff report up to 35 per cent of those attending have only minor health problems, will get better as the primary health care strategy is implemented, says the Ministry of Health.

Hutt Hospital is urging patients to visit a general practitioner or after-hours service in non-urgent cases rather than seek help at the emergency department because of a shortage of junior doctors.

The problem of people turning up to emergency departments with minor problems is common to all New Zealand hospitals, Ministry spokesman Dr Colin Feek said today.

"We know that about 30 percent of hospital admissions for those under 75 are avoidable and two-thirds of these can be avoided through effective access to earlier primary care. We want people in the first instance to see a GP, a nurse, a marae clinic, a Pacific provider, or whoever their primary care provider is."

College of General Practitioners President Dr Helen Rodenburg said the public would get better follow up care if they visited their general practitioner rather than an emergency department.

"In most cases your doctor is much better placed to handle a problem than an emergency department. A doctor will be privy to patient history which will lead to more appropriate prescribing and follow up care."

"International research has shown time and time again that continuity of care leads to better health for the patient."

Dr Feek said by the end of this week GPs, nurses, Maori and Pacific health providers, and others will be armed with tools and information for implementing the primary health care strategy after attending a Ministry of Health sponsored conference about primary care."

Primary Focus: The Future of Primary Health Care is being held at the Wellington Convention Centre 30/31 May.

The conference looks at practical ways of getting all New Zealanders cared for as soon as possible and at the best ways of preventing the kinds of illnesses that can be avoided by lifestyle changes.

Almost 700 people have enrolled, making this one of the biggest health conferences ever.

Dozens of workshops will be held during the two-day conference. They will be presented by a range of New Zealand experts on issues facing primary health practitioners such as diabetes, immunisation, Primary Health Organisation budget management, youth health, Maori and Pacific people's health, community involvement and mental health.

Speakers include internationally renowned researcher into primary care Professor Barbara Starfield from John Hopkins University in the United States.

As many of the workshops will run concurrently, the Ministry of Health will ensure the opening and closing addresses and keynote speeches are available on its website via streamed audio on

For a full programme of the two-day conference visit



Barbara Starfield MD, MPH, Distinguished Service Professor with John Hopkins University and director of their Primary Care Center. An internationally renowned researcher in the areas of primary health care, quality of health, health status measurement and their translation into public policy.

Anne McMurray RN, PhD, is Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Nursing and Health at Griffith University, Queensland. She is the Australian member on the International Council of Nurses' Expert Advisory Panel on Primary Health Care and the WHO Pacific Region Advisory Committee on Health Research. Professor McMurray has published extensively on primary health care.

Shirley Smoyak RN, PhD, a Health Care Sociologist and Professor of Planning, is a member of the Department of Urban Studies and Community Health at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Professor Smoyak was deputy chair of the National Joint Practice Commission which studied physician/nurse joint working in primary health care and mental health.

Katherine Clarke is Provider Development Officer with Healthcare Aotearoa, a national network of primary health providers which are not-for-profit and community controlled. She has previously worked with Hauora Hokianga in the far North.

Don Matheson MB, ChB, BSc, FAFPHm, Deputy Director-General of Public Health, Ministry of Health, has extensive experience in public health, health services management and general practice. His experience of primary health care includes rural practice, Maori health, and third sector providers in New Zealand and overseas.

Key Times of Speeches

Minister of Health Annette King: 9.00am, Thursday 30 May

Professor Barbara Starfield: 9.30am, Thursday 30 May

Ministry of Health Deputy Director-General of Public Health Don Matheson: 2.00pm, Thursday 30 May

Anne McMurray and Kathrine Clarke: 8.30am, Friday 31 May

Shirley Smoyak: 1.30pm, Friday 31 May

Ministry of Health Director-General Karen Poutasi: 4.30pm, Friday 31 May

Who will be attending? Health care practitioners: GPs, nurses working in the community, physios, health promoters etc. Provider organisations: IPAs, community based health and disability providers, Maori and Pacific providers. Community groups and individuals: community trusts, local bodies, patient advocacy groups, interested individuals. Other health industry personnel: pharmaceutical industry, consultants etc. District Health Boards: board members, committee members, management and planning staff. Policy makers: Ministry of Health, ACC, other Government agencies.


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