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MOH Working Party To Tackle After-Hours Issues

Media Release
8 October 2004

Ministry of Health announces working party to tackle after-hours issues

A health sector working party is to be established to look into after-hours issues so that all New Zealanders can be sure of 24-hour primary health care.

Ministry of Health spokesman Dr Jim Primrose said the Ministry had been working on after-hours service issues with District Health Boards (DHBs), Primary Health Organisations (PHOs) and sector groups for more than two months.

Key issues identified by the Ministry were put to a meeting of DHB and PHO representatives in Wellington this week.

The group acknowledged that in many areas of New Zealand, access to and delivery of after-hours care was facing a range of difficulties.

The group agreed to support the Ministry/DHB proposal that a working party be established.

Dr Primrose said that a 2001 international study showed accessibility to after-hours services in New Zealand was better than the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

In the study -- Findings from The Commonwealth Fund 2001 International Health Policy Survey, New Zealanders were the least likely to report difficulty in getting after-hours care, with 23 percent of the 1400 New Zealanders surveyed saying they had encountered access problems. This was less than the United Kingdom (33 percent), Australia (34 percent), and the United States and Canada (41 percent).

``From this international comparison we can see that New Zealand is doing better than four much larger countries, but we want to keep it this way and improve wherever we can.''

Dr Primrose said PHOs were accountable for ensuring access to services 24 hours a day, and were increasingly working with DHBs and other providers on collaborative approaches to achieve this.

``The Ministry is very clear about this.The new PHO environment has the potential to make a significant difference to improving the health of all New Zealanders because of the major investment of Government funding into primary health care -- three-quarters of a billion dollars over four years,'' he said.

``Local communities now have more funding and a much more collaborative environment to ensure access for people 24 hours a day. The PHOs receive funding for round-the-clock services, seven days a week on a per person basis and that includes the services for people getting after-hours care.

``After hours arrangements will vary in different communities and that's the way it should be. If there are problems with ensuring good 24-hour care, they need to be fixed, and that is what the working party will address.''


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