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100,000 more New Zealanders welcomed into PHOs

1 October 2004

Annette King welcomes 100,000 more New Zealanders into PHOs

Another 100,000 New Zealanders from today become part of the biggest change in primary health care in more than half a century, says Health Minister Annette King.

Ms King today welcomed the formation of four more Primary Health Organisations --- two in Southland, one in Hutt Valley and one in Wellington --- and said there are now 77 PHOs looking after the primary health needs of about 3.7 million New Zealanders.

The four new PHOs service some 100,000 people, with the largest, Waihopai PHO, covering much of Invercargill.

“I am particularly pleased the Southland region is now well covered,” Ms King said. “Palmerston North is now the only major area in New Zealand that is not covered by a PHO, and Manawatu primary care providers recently signalled they would establish one in January next year. I am really looking forward to that.”

Ms King said she and Prime Minister Helen Clark had announced in July that all New Zealanders belonging to Primary Health Organisations will be entitled to cheaper primary health care such as doctors’ visits and prescriptions by July 2007, up to five years earlier than first anticipated.

“By the 2007-08 financial year the Government will have committed $1.7 billion in total over six years from 2002-03 specifically for implementing the Primary Health Care Strategy using the PHO model.

“Already the Government is providing subsidies that mean PHO patients aged under 18 and 65 and over are paying less in doctors’ fees and for most prescription charges, and that will obviously benefit many of those patients who have become part of the new PHOs today. Altogether about two million New Zealanders are already receiving cheaper primary health care through PHOs.

“The benefits will be rolled out for 18 to 24 year-olds in July next year, for 45 to 64-year-olds in July 2006, and for the rest of New Zealanders, the 25 to 44-year-olds, in July 2007.”

Ms King says the Government believes that significantly increasing the share of public funding will encourage primary health care providers to show the lead in providing services to those who may been missing out in the past, and in addressing health priority areas, such as cancer and diabetes, in coordinating care for patients and in collecting vital health data.

“As well as making it easier for people to get affordable primary health care, PHOs are also about providers exploring innovative approaches to keep the people enrolled with them healthy and out of hospital. We all know that the only way we will cope with the predicted burden of chronic illness, such as growing levels of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression and obesity, is by strengthening prevention, early management and health promotion.

“PHOs that know their population profile are better able to identify those people who need early intervention measures or preventive care. They’re better able to follow up on those people who are missing out on care or advice. They can record and measure what they’re doing and how they are helping to make a tangible difference to health outcomes of people living in their community.’’

Ms King said she had heard many encouraging examples of innovative work by PHO providers, including special programmes aimed at helping people most at risk from diabetes and heart disease, interpreting services, transport support for people unable to get to their local doctor or nurse and oral health services for adolescents.

With such collaboration and community involvement, she expected the shift in the way primary health services are delivered would, over time, involve a whole team of health professionals offering a variety of services and meeting community needs.

“As the PHO establishment phase draws to an end, the challenge is to look at how to do this. We are at a creative time in which PHOs and communities have the opportunity to influence future development. “Community participation in the governing process of PHOs is important, because a strong primary health care system must give local people a voice in the planning and delivery of services in local communities.”

Questions and Answers

Which PHOs are starting up on 1 October 2004?

PHO PHO type DHB Enrolled population
Karori Interim Capital & Coast 12,670
Ropata Community Interim Hutt Valley 16,190
Waihopai Interim Southland 59,340
Wakatipu Interim Southland 11,645


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