Primary care is under the pump across the country. Almost 20 percent of all clinics nationwide have raised concerns.
In Christchurch, GP Api Talematoga says he and his colleagues are at breaking point.
“I’ve been in practice for 30 years and I’ve never been exposed to this level of stress,” he told Newshub.
Wellington GP Rachael Waters feels similarly exhausted.
“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen. It’s the most stretched I’ve ever seen. It’s the most difficult, it’s the busiest.”
Many practices are in financial strife, and almost all lack staff and are overloaded with patients.
“Any patient will know that they can wait two, three, four weeks to get a GP visit. It’s not okay and the health of New Zealanders is suffering, and we need to fix it,” Dr Waters told Newshub.
Adding to the pressure, the NZ Nurses Organisation lodged a pay equity claim with the intention of boosting pay for nurses in primary care.
“We’ve got this significant gap between what nurses in hospitals are paid and what nurses outside hospitals, in what we call the funded sector, are paid,” said NZNO chief executive Paul Goulter.
GPs want their nurses paid more but say they can’t fund it.
“I think it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” said Dr Waters.
In response to the union’s claim, since mid-December, 155 GP clinics have issued what’s known as a Section 14 notice.
This is a “notification of problems”, or “significant risks” where the clinic has concerns it can’t perform the services it’s contracted to do.
The clinic’s local Primary Health Organisation (PHO) is contacted, which is then obliged to inform Manatū Hauora/the Ministry of Health.