A new rural after-hours telehealth service is now available, improving access to primary health care for almost 900,000 New Zealanders.
Rural communities can access the service in two ways, by calling 0800 2 KA ORA (0800 252 672) directly or via referral from their rural healthcare provider. Co-commissioned by Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora, the new service is being delivered by Ka Ora Telecare which brings together three organisations with an extensive record in telehealth care (Reach Aotearoa, Practice Plus and Emergency Consult).
“This is a really exciting new service, and our organisation is proud of the new platform we have stood up to help our rural communities and support rural GPs with another option to provide care for their patients,” says Jess White, General Manager, Ka Ora Telecare.
“When people call the service, they are first triaged by nurses and kaiāwhina and can be referred through to a doctor if needed. The service is an extension of the care provided by your usual healthcare provider, but it is also available to those who are unenrolled and living in a rural area. It has been up and running for a week with our first group of 20 rural practices on board, with further practices coming on board in the coming days.”
While the service is subsidised by Te Whatu Ora, a patient co-payment will be charged for consultations with a doctor. Under 14s will remain free, and those on Community Services Card or who are 65 years and over will pay $19.50.
“For those in our most isolated communities, who may only have a landline and no access to the internet, this service is a real step forward in accessing after-hours care when it is not an emergency,” says Dr Sarah Clarke, National Clinical Director, Primary and Community Care, Te Whatu Ora.
“Alongside this we know that our rural healthcare providers have been under pressure due to workforce shortages with staffing after hours rosters only adding to that pressure, so this is a way we can offer additional capacity and continuity of care to providers and their patients to improve the wellbeing of our rural communities.”
Selah Hart, Maiaka Hapori Deputy Chief Executive Public and Population Health, Te Aka Whai Ora, adds this new service will help our rural whānau who may otherwise struggle to access after-hours care.
“I am thinking of our whānau, especially those with young tamariki, who have previously had to travel long distances to get after-hours medical care. It will be such a relief to them to have care available quickly and easily, so they can stay well in their community,” says Selah Hart.
The 0800 service will provide after-hours clinical telehealth care (5.00pm – 8.00am) on weekdays, and 24 hours a day on weekends and public holidays. The service is staffed by kaiāwhina, nurses, GPs and emergency medicine specialists. The service will provide access for people in rural areas whether they are enrolled or unenrolled with a primary care practice.
Rural communities are a priority group identified in Te Pae Tata (Interim New Zealand Health Plan) and new initiatives are underway to improve their access to high-quality, timely healthcare.
The rural clinical telehealth service is a new addition to New Zealand’s telehealth options. Healthline – 0800 611 116 continues to operate as normal. The contract to deliver this new service has been awarded to Ka Ora Telecare for the next three years.
More information can be found at https://kaora.co.nz/app/
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