Joint release | Te Whatu Ora / Te Aka Whai Ora
Rural communities and whānau will be offered additional access to primary care services, through a new after-hours clinical telehealth service.
Following a contestable funding process which received strong interest from the health sector, Ka Ora Telecare Limited (known as ‘Ka Ora’) has been awarded the contract to deliver the rural clinical telehealth service over the next three years. The new service has been co-commissioned by Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora to reduce barriers for rural communities to access primary care, particularly for priority populations.
“The rural health sector has told us that the combined pressure of workforce shortages and unsustainable after-hours rosters mean that this service is needed to support the well-being of people living rurally,” says Abbe Anderson, National Director Commissioning, Te Whatu Ora.
“The service will enhance the care already provided by our rural health teams, working with our existing health providers to offer additional capacity and continuity of care.
“Rural communities are a priority group identified in Te Pae Tata (Interim New Zealand Health Plan) and we remain dedicated to improving their access to high-quality, timely healthcare.”
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 all rural people whether they are enrolled or unenrolled with a primary care practice.
Although 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.
Rural general practice clinics will also be able to refer whānau and communities to the service after hours when they are at capacity to ensure rural patients have an alternative option to access healthcare when they need it.
“We know that access to services after working hours can be a real challenge in rural areas and creates unnecessary delays to receiving care.
“This new service could also make the difference for whānau, helping them to avoid a lengthy trip to the hospital in the middle of the night,” said Selah Hart, Maiaka Hapori Deputy Chief Executive Public and Population Health, Te Aka Whai Ora.
The Ka Ora network brings together three existing health organisations, Reach Aotearoa, Practice Plus and Emergency Consult under one umbrella who have the ability to deliver the service nationally to rural communities.
“Ka Ora draws together extensive local experience, and the three organisations have a proven track record of working across rural New Zealand, including with Hauora Māori,” said Abbe Anderson.
“We acknowledge this process to identify a provider has taken some time. However, it was important for Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora to work together with our partners to create a flexible, equitable and integrated RFP approach to ensure that all providers could be considered. Ka Ora will also be partnering with other local providers, including Hauora Māori providers, to deliver equitable services to rural communities.”
The rural clinical telehealth service is a new addition to New Zealand’s telehealth options and Healthline – 0800 611 116 continues to operate as normal.