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Urgent action needed on after-hours care

Hon Tony Ryall National Party Health Spokesman

28 February 2006

Urgent action needed on after-hours care

National Party Health spokesman Tony Ryall says hospital emergency departments are being put under even greater pressure due to the crisis in after-hours GP care.

"The Government is still sitting on last year's working party report on after-hours primary care. The Minister of Health hasn't even responded to it. It's high time Pete Hodgson told New Zealanders how and when he is going to fix this very real, very serious problem."

Mr Ryall says the demand for after-hours services is not being met, and the high cost has put the service out of reach for too many people.

"This in turn is putting added pressure on our already stretched emergency departments. People are turning up at hospital with problems that would be better fixed by a GP.

"If the Labour Government got this right, they could take a lot of pressure off emergency departments and make taxpayer dollars go further. "After-hours GP care is getting harder to find late at night or early in the morning. After-hours surgeries have closed or cut hours in Wellington, Tauranga, and elsewhere. "An association representing most South Island GPs has voted to withdraw after-hours care by the end of this year unless this situation is fixed.

"Patients now pay up to $87 to see a GP after hours in our major cities. "Not enough GPs and nurses are able or willing to provide after-hours care because of workforce shortages, and I am told funding is inadequate. "Also, the huge variation in after-hours services across the country is confusing and makes it difficult for visitors to an area to understand what to do if they need after-hours primary care," says Mr Ryall.

ENDS

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