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St John Staff Support Taumarunui Emergency

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
St John Staff Support Taumarunui Emergency

Taumarunui Hospital will be the first New Zealand hospital to trial an initiative which hopes to go some way towards alleviating staff shortages in rural hospitals.

Workforce shortages are the greatest challenge to Waikato District Health Board's ability to provide clinically safe services in rural communities.

From Tuesday 26 October, local St John advanced paramedic Janet Curtis will work as a team member of Taumarunui Hospital's Emergency Department alongside her ED colleagues to triage, treat and where she can, discharge people back to the community or their GP.

"Currently, there is little demand for advanced paramedics in small rural communities in the pre-hospital setting so this pilot is hoping to increase the amount of work for them to do to make their employment worthwhile." said Waikato DHB change manager Grant O'Brien.

"The skills of an advanced paramedic would be under-utilised only responding to emergencies in the community.

"Combining the workloads of ambulance and emergency department along with different challenges makes for an attractive and rewarding role," said St John regional operations manager Brent Nielsen.

Taumarunui Hospital manager Joanne Knight said bringing advanced paramedics into the emergency department is an appropriate initiative.

"An advanced paramedic has very proficient skills in first response to emergency situations as they often work in remote or difficult situations, isolated from other health professionals. "They are able to initiate some advanced medical interventions in the field which they can use to assist the medical officer in critical care situations. They will complement the work of both the nursing and medical staff in the emergency department."

Ms Curtis holds a Masters Degree in Health Sciences.

Mr O'Brien said Taumarunui currently presents the highest risk to Waikato DHB with vulnerable primary care services where there appears little interest in replacement GPs.

"This community is a difficult two-hour drive from Hamilton; there are 4.5 GPs for a service population of approximately 10,000 people," he said.

Taumarunui Hospital has been providing the bulk of after hours call for the town for some time with the assistance of the After Hours Telephone Triage Service which Waikato DHB funds.

The demand on the ED from 5pm to dawn is slight; however, reporting shows an increase of 2000 presentations in 2009-10 compared to 2008-2009. The greatest increases occur from 9am to 5pm.

Waikato DHB wants to see a sustainable solution for this town and chief executive Craig Climo believes this will come from a joined up workforce.

"We have a number of providers offering the same services to the same population.

"It makes sense that they join together for better collaboration, improved integration and to reduce duplication.

"This pilot is the first step to develop a new model of service delivery for Taumarunui and if successful it should inform models in other rural communities," Mr Climo said.

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