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Southland PHO decision

Southland PHO decision

A single Primary Health Organisation for Otago and Southland must have a wide vision focussed on meeting the health needs of rural communities – not only the towns but also the large numbers of people who live and work in rural areas, says New Zealand Rural General Practice Network chairwoman Kirsty Murrell-McMillan.

Ms Murrell-McMillan says there remain significant difficulties recruiting and retaining practitioners to live and work in rural communities and having a wider group to consider these issues offers greater opportunities in terms of servicing rural communities.

“We are challenged in some of these areas to keep doctors and we need to find mechanisms and smarter ways that will enable closer to home services across rural communities in Southland and Otago.”

There will now be one PHO across Otago and Southland after Southland District Health Board rescinded its previous decision to form a separate Southland PHO.

Southland DHB approved the formation of a single PHO across both regions, replacing the nine in existence now, at a Special Board meeting held in public on October 29.

Ms Murrell-McMillan commended the DHB board for reviewing their processes after the initial decision and for listening to general practices and adhering to the democratic process. “We look forward to working with them in future.”

Earlier this month the Network facilitated a meeting in Lumsden between local rural general practices, rural practice owners and DHB bosses and board members.
“What we are reassured of now is that the DHBs are aware of the issues as an outcome of this process.

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“Whatever comes in the future must look after the needs of rural people. This creates a way forward for that to happen.

“There was a feeling within rural general practice in Southland that there was a real need for a PHO that has a strong clinical and strong rural focus.”

Southland DHB board chairman Paul Menzies said it became apparent after attending a meeting of the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network on October 10, as well as a prior South Link Health survey, that a significant majority of GP practice owners across Otago and Southland supported the concept of a single PHO across the two provinces.

Following the board’s decision, Mr Menzies acknowledged the PHO issue had been a difficult process for both the board and the community and paid tribute to those involved in PHOs across Southland.

The Otago Board had voted in the private section of its October board meeting for one single PHO across the two regions, but would have had to set up a separate single PHO in Otago by default.

Now that both DHBs have approved to contract with only one PHO across both regions, they have also both agreed to the appointment of a PHO transitional board to oversee the creation of a single, community-owned, Otago-Southland PHO.

The boards will now issue notices of exit, for contracts the DHBs have with existing PHOs, across Otago-Southland once a time-line has been set for the creation of the new cross-region PHO.
The DHBs expect to appoint a PHO transitional board in the near future.


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