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After-hours service wanted .. Campaigner Paula Thackwell believes the Rangiora health hub should also be used as an after-hours emergency centre. PHOTO: DAVID HILL

By SHELLEY TOPP

Patience is said to be running out for an emergency health centre in Rangiora.

Waimakariri people have sought an after-hours emergency health centre for Rangiora for six years.

The campaign was led by Rangiora’s Paula Thackwell and Helen Hirst, who organised a petition signed by more than 8200 people calling for an after-hours emergency health centre.

Two years ago, a new $7 million health hub providing maternity services and beds for restorative care, was officially opened in Rangiora.

While the hub has been acknowledged as a great asset, the after-hours facility for which the community lobbied in 2011 has still not eventuated. “Public patience is running out,” Paula says.

While Waimakariri residents are not ungrateful for the health hub, an after-hours emergency health centre is still urgently required, she says.

“We are sick and tired of all the public meetings held by Carolyn Gallery (general manager of planning and funding of the Canterbury District Health Board, and the West Coast District Health Board) making all these promises and nothing happens,” says Paula, who believes the health hub could also be used as an after-hours emergency centre.

“We have the facility. Why aren’t we using it more effectively?

“It is just not feasible for people faced with an emergency health problem to have to travel in to Christchurch for treatment,”she says.

Paula acknowledges the district has a free after-hours phone medical service available for emergency healthcare needs, but says few people know how to access it.

“Medical agencies such as Nurse Maude, Access Community Health and Crest (a Canterbury District Health Board initiative launched in 2011 to ease pressure on capacity-stretched hospitals after the earthquakes) could do a lot more to help with that.

“Those agencies should have information about the service to hand out to patients.”

The first step to access that service is for the patient to phone their doctor. If the phone call is made during after-hours it will put the caller through to a triage nurse in Auckland who assesses the patient’s needs and decides whether to send paramedics or an ambulance at no cost to the patient.

Paula was interested to learn that the Hurunui Health Services Development Group is working on establishing an after-hours medical service in Hurunui.

However, that will not alter the urgent need for a more efficient, accessible after-hours emergency service in Rangiora, she says.