Chatham Island residents are receiving greater levels of health care, which is resulting in fewer residents leaving the island to enter long term residential care, fewer hospital stays and a significant reduction in emergency life flights.
The Canterbury District Health Board took over the responsibility for the provision of health services to the Chatham Islands on 1 July 2015 – a move that has resulted in operational cost savings, increased access to health care and improved outcomes for the residents.
There has been a reduction in operational expenditure, primarily the result of decreasing transport costs following investment in a TeleHealth facility, along with upgrading radiology equipment and a server upgrade. Significant investment is required to upgrade the community dental and health clinic facilities in the very near future.
"There is a significant increase in need for both personal cares and support care being delivered in the home. This is being driven by an ageing population and improved community integrated health assessments which identify service needs early," says Manager Rural Health Services, Win McDonald. She adds that all community needs are being met – using a combination of home support workers, Maori Community Services and registered nurses.
Specialist visits to the Chathams
In the last financial year, over 1180 specialist appointments were delivered for Chatham Island residents. These included paediatrics, orthopaedics, Well-Child, radiology, community mental health, obstetrics and gynaecology, occupational and physiotherapy, older person's needs assessment, podiatrist and diabetes nursing. Visits were coordinated with a visiting ACC team working closely with the Occupational and Physiotherapy staff with ACC sharing the cost of this service delivery.
Chatham Islands Clinical Nurse Manager, Sally Lanauze says that by fully utilising a whole system approach, they have been able to overcome some of the challenges of distance.
"The direct connection to Christchurch Hospital, both via direct flights and quick and easy access to services like visiting specialists and TeleHealth, which connects specialists in Christchurch Hospital with medical staff on the Chatham Islands via video conferencing, means the islanders now have the same access to health services as all other Cantabrians."
Sally adds that the provision of specialist support in times of an emergency, and where staff have been on duty for long hours, only enhances patient safety.
The orthopaedic team visited the Chatham Islands in September last year and again in May this year. During the second visit, a number of patients who had already received surgery were seen and discharged. During the two-day May clinic, 55 patients were seen and six minor surgeries performed. Following assessment, 24 patients remain under Orthopaedic care and 31 patients were discharged.
New contracts were put in place with a visiting podiatrist and on-island physiotherapist and the Lead maternity Carer contract was renewed. Dental services were provided by a private dentist in February, this was the second clinic and again the service was fully booked for 14 days.
In June, Rural Canterbury Primary Health Organisation appointed a Primary Mental Health Nurse/Registered Counsellor to deliver independent counselling services.
Sixty-three of the 112 eligible Chatham Island women took part in the biennial breast screening clinics run by BreastScreen South. For those who were unable to attend planning is underway for a further clinic in May 2018.
The Health Centre and Ha O Te Ora O Wharekauri Trust are working more closely together to coordinate visits to the health centre with other needs like shopping, as well as arranging the follow-up support in the community. "This closer working relationship provides a more consistent level of health care and helps prevent injuries in the home for our elders within the community," Sally concludes.
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