3 Mar 2010

'Faster treatment' under new emergency hospital system

7:37 am on 3 March 2010

A new system proposed for Queenstown's Lakes District Hospital, denying free emergency treatment to some patients, is already getting results in other parts of the country.

Under the Southland District Health Board proposal, patients arriving at the emergency department would first be seen at a new 24-hour general practice on site.

If the patient is assessed as not requiring emergency care, they will be treated by one of the practice's GPs and charged for the service.

Those patients assessed as needing emergency treatment will be seen at the emergency department, free of charge.

Timaru Hospital has a similar system, which has resulted in an 18% decrease in the number of patients going into the emergency department in the past four months.

Managers say those who are most in need of urgent care are being treated faster, and there have been few complaints from patients who had to pay for a GP consultation.

Southland District Health Board is also suggesting the ageing Lakes District Hospital be extended and upgraded to accommodate a new integrated family healthcare centre, described as a one-stop shop for Wakatipu health services.