Aucklanders can now access cheaper after-hours healthcare, thanks to a major change announced by New Zealand’s three largest District Health Boards.
As part of the change, many Accident and Medical (A&M) clinics in Auckland will be open in evenings, weekends and public holidays until at least 10pm.
Four clinics will be operating overnight covering North, West, South and East Auckland. Many will also have better access to health advice over the phone after hours. For those who need it most, their care will now be more affordable.
The initiative is expected to address inconsistencies in opening hours and costs, as well as reduce the pressures on public hospital emergency departments.
These clinics will offer reduced charges for patients who have traditionally used hospital emergency departments as their after hours solution because of cost, says Counties Manukau DHB CEO Geraint Martin, on behalf of the three DHBs.
“This, along with the telephone advice, will help stem the growth of patients visiting the hospital emergency departments who could be cared for equally as well or better in the community. This is particularly the case for patients on low incomes.”
Nearly half of Auckland’s population will get access to these reduced charges, including: under six year olds, those 65 and over, community services card holders, high user health card holders, and those who live in a low income area.
For example, in Henderson, under 6 year olds are usually being charged $31 and up to $36 on a public holiday and this will now be free after hours. Seven of the 11 clinics will see under six year olds for free.
“All hospitals in the region have been hit hard with high numbers of ED patients this winter, and only last week Middlemore Hospital saw a record breaking 356 patients in its ED in a single day.
“More telephone advice and affordable after hours care at A&M clinics will address the growth of people going to hospital emergency departments. It will also ensure that people are aware, that even in the middle of the night, they can get expert advice and go to an A&M.” said Martin.
The three DHBs have committed $7.5 million to the project, while the region’s PHOs and A&Ms have invested $1.7 million to the project.
Chair of the Taskforce that developed the initiative, Dr Ian Scott says, “During normal working hours people should contact their doctor. However, now, if you need medical attention after hours your first port-of-call should be to phone your regular doctor who will be able to provide advice and may direct you to your closest A&M. As part of the initiative many of the doctors are operating an after hours telephone service that will be staffed by registered nurses.”
Patients going through an after hours A&M clinic can also expect to be seen sooner than those attending a hospital emergency department. For parents this is great news, as they will now have confidence that in the rare event they need medical treatment after hours, they can take their under 6 year old to a local A&M clinic and be seen sooner than at an ED and, in many cases, for free.