Doctors under pressure from ‘challenging’ winter

GPs have said theyare already struggling to fit people in for appointments. PHOTO: ISTOCK

You may face a wait to see a doctor this winter, as both GPs and hospitals warn they are at capacity.

The Canterbury District Health Board, which has expressed concern that beds at Christchurch Hospital will be full this winter, has asked people to call their community doctor first if they are sick.

But the city’s GPs have said they are also worried about numbers, and are already struggling to fit people in for appointments.

CDHB planning and funding general manager Carolyn Gullery said a number of strategies were in place to manage the situation, including an “acute demand programme” that could treat people at home.

She was concerned about bed numbers, especially at Christchurch Hospital, she said.

“It will be a challenging winter and we recommend that the people who have health conditions that can become worse in winter connect with their general practice team and develop a plan about what to do if they become unwell,” she said.

New Zealand Medical Association chairwoman Kate Baddock told The Star doctors had reported being too busy to see more patients.

That was because funding constraints meant some medical centres could not afford enough doctors, Dr Baddock said.

But Christchurch doctors say they will not turn people away.

Hornby Medical Centre practice manager Rosie Kennedy said appointments were kept free for urgent cases, and people with illnesses like the flu would be seen.

She said funding was a problem, as they would build an extra room and bring in an extra doctor if they had more money.

David Jones, a director of Better Health practices, which includes the Linwood, Moorhouse and Barrington medical centres, said they were under a lot of pressure.

As well as the cost of extra patients, he said GPs had also faced extra technological
and health and safety requirements, and the funding had not kept up.