Invercargill after-hours doctors to continue

Thursday 28 March 2024

WellSouth Primary Health Network has moved fast to support continuity of primary care in Invercargill following the closure of the Invercargill Urgent Doctors (IUDS) today (28 March). 


WellSouth, the primary health organisation (PHO) for Otago and Southland, is working with Te Hau o Te Ora, the partnership it has with Hokonui Rūnanga and Awarua Rūnaka.


Working with Health New Zealand Te Whatu Ora, and local practices, the PHO has secured a mix of general practitioner, nurse practitioner, nurse, and administrative support staff member to provide an after-hours primary care service, until further notice.


The Invercargill After Hours Clinic will be located at Te Hau o Te Ora general practice on Clyde Street in Invercargill. The service will see patients from 6-9pm Monday to Friday and from 12-4pm on weekends – Saturday and Sunday – and public holidays including Southland anniversary next week.


This is an appointment-based service for after-hours face-to-face care with a clinician. 


Essentially, the service replicates the IUDS, with people being encouraged to book with the after-hours service. However, the service will be at a lower cost. Under 14s are free, with those aged 14-17 years old charged $80, if enrolled. Enrolled patients with a Community Services Card 14 years and up are a flat $50 fee. unenrolled rates are slightly higher, and ACC claimed consultations slightly less.


People should contact Te Hau o Te Ora on 0800 456 138 to make a booking. For those still ringing IUDS, they will be redirected.


For some clients who call their general practice and are referred to an after-hours telehealth service – likely to be Practice Plus – due to the timing of their call, they may be asked to book with the Te Hau o Te Ora after hours service to get on-site in person attention.


WellSouth CEO Andrew Swanson-Dobbs says staff at WellSouth and Te Hau o Te Ora have been working hard to find a solution to keep continuity of care for the community. 


“We are pleased to step in and set up the temporary Invercargill after hours that complements general practice and supports those people who need to see a clinical practitioner in person.”


“We will be meeting with local general practices and Health New Zealand in coming weeks to take a longer view on this and what a more permanent solution is, but for now, we just want to keep a service going for the community.”


“The staff are temporary, and we will need to come up with a long-term staffing, funding and administrative solution. There is still plenty of work to be done. We are very grateful to those in the Invercargill community who have stepped up to make this happen.”


Mr Swanson-Dobbs explains that most practices across Invercargill have an after-hours telehealth set up, where clients can talk to a clinician over the phone, but some may need to see someone in person.


“In some cases, the patient needs to see a nurse, nurse practitioner or doctor and can wait to see their usual general practitioner the following day, but in other cases they need to see someone immediately, and this will support that need.


“However, for most, they will contact the service directly.”


The after-hours is not an emergency department, and some clients when triaged by their telehealth service or by the Invercargill After Hours Clinic staff will need to go to Southland Hospital.


“Long-term, we do need to consider the role of technology and how that supports continuity of care. It is something that we will bring to the table as we plan for the future of after-hours care,” says Mr Swanson-Dobbs.


“We are dedicated to supporting the access to primary care in Invercargill and see this as an opportunity to shape the future of healthcare.”

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