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WellSouth launching new primary care service in Invercargill   

Monday 15 February 2021

WellSouth launching new primary care service in Invercargill   

 Supporting general practices, their patients and whānau in Invercargill, WellSouth is launching a new primary care service for unenrolled patients.  

WellSouth’s board of trustees made the resolution at its February meeting, asking the WellSouth management team to introduce a primary care service, supplementing general practice capacity currently available in the community.  

 The new service is aimed at supporting patients who are not currently enrolled with a practice, providing access to care and the same funded programmes delivered at most other general practices. These include vaccinations, screening programmes, support for long-term conditions, such as diabetes, and other preventative care services. Other benefits of enrollment include lower fees for appointments and continuity of care – as providers will know more about patients, their health history and personal circumstances.   

 WellSouth offices  

 This new primary care service will operate from WellSouth’s Clyde Street offices and is expected to start accepting unenrolled patients within weeks. WellSouth will be issuing expressions of interest for health care providers to staff the clinic in the coming days, while its own clinical staff will also support the clinic.   

 “General practices in our networks make every effort to enrol patients who are seeking enrollment and to see patients who need same-day appointments. But it’s clear - more support and more capacity is needed,” says WellSouth Chief Executive Andrew Swanson-Dobbs. “When patients miss out on routine and preventative care for any reason, their conditions and overall health can worsen. In some cases, they present to the emergency departments or need more advanced care.   

 “We have to take action. There is pressure on general practice teams and on the whole health system and we know we can do more to help – particularly for Māori, Pacific and high-needs populations, who are more at risk of missing out on primary and preventative care.”  

 Mr Swanson-Dobbs says Invercargill and Southern are not alone in facing the challenges to primary care, with mounting demand for services and a shortage of GPs across the country and abroad. These pressures, along with the costs associated with setting up a new practice, are thought to be barriers to new players establishing practices in the city.   

 With facilities and access to administrative and clinical staff, WellSouth has some important foundations of a primary care service in place and can get a service up and running quickly with less risk. WellSouth also recently introduced a new service (0800 478 256) to help people to enrol in a general practice in Southern.  

 Southern DHB chief executive Chris Fleming says the new service is a good step towards the solutions needed for patients, general practices in Invercargill and for the Southern health system.  

 “Supporting the population in Invercargill, particularly the unenrolled, to access primary care services is something we know needs to be resolved. The health and well-being of patients is our paramount concern but there are broader implications for the health services when people aren’t accessing the timely care they need, where and when it should be provided.  

 “It is clear that practices are all working extremely hard to enrol patients and deliver care, but the workload is significant, so we’re pleased that the WellSouth board has taken an active role to increase capacity.”  

 Further services

 While initially a primary care service operating in normal business hours, this new entity is the first step in a wider plan that will work with local practices to organise and deliver After Hours services in Invercargill long-term.  It will play a part in future developments in the health sector in Invercargill, ensuring the city secures the community-based care and services that people need and deserve.   

 Dr Andy Doherty, chair of the Invercargill Urgent Doctors Service welcomed the news, saying: “We are looking forward to working with WellSouth on a new solution for afterhours.”  

 First Practice  

 This is the first such practice for WellSouth, however, primary health organisations across New Zealand own and operate practices including Pinnacle in Waikato, Nelson Bays Primary Health, Marlborough Primary Health and THINK Hauora in Palmerston North.

 About Us  

 WellSouth Primary Health Network supports general practice teams and coordinates and helps in the delivery of primary health care on the lower South Island.   

 Our aim is to support people to look after themselves, promote healthy environments and help provide care, and access to care, where it’s needed.  

 There are 75 practice in the WellSouth primary health network. WellSouth has offices in Dunedin, Invercargill and Alexandra. 


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