Government to bring back after hours care to Wānaka

by Lauren Pattemore - Jun 27, 2024

Wānaka will have 24 hour health care reinstated by September according to a brief announcement made by health minister Shane Reti today.

In town for the opening of Wānaka birthing unit Rākai Kahukura, Dr Reti also dropped the news that the after-hours service will return as an "interim solution" to the area's health needs.

"I understand this is something your community has been asking for some time," Dr Reti told attendees at the event today. 

The new service will start with one clinical nurse on call after hours from 11pm until 8am and be provided in partnership with Health New Zealand and Central Otago Health Services Limited, Dr Reti says.  

The government is committing to the service for the next 12 months.

Dr Reti says during this time the government will continue to look at alternative and longer-term models to help provide health care in regions like Central Otago. 

Queried on staffing requirements, Dr Reti says the number of extra employees required for the service is "still being worked through", but recruitment will start shortly. 

Chair of community-led advocacy group Health Action Wānaka Monique Mayze says whilst it's good news funding for the service has been approved they're still very aware that it is a "stop-gap".

With the area's rapidly growing population, Ms Mayze thinks it's important the after hours service offered in Wānaka processes further than what has been proposed today.

"So what we'll be focusing on in terms of our advocacy is a sustainable after hour service, such as a publicly funded emergency department.

"We have to make sure that this doesn't become the status quo...we need to keep working towards something that is reasonable and appropriate for our community."

She acknowledges the recent announcement of a resource consent application having been lodged for a new private day surgery and five-level hospital in Wānaka, but says it will only address issues of equity if it provides services that are publicly funded, such as an emergency department.

Health Action Wānaka is set to hold focus groups next month to better understand the needs of the area, and invites interested residents to attend.

Sessions will be held at the Community Link centre on 34 McDougall Street on Thursday, July 25 from 11am until 1pm and from 6.30pm until 8.30pm.

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