Hokitika back to one GP

By Janna Sherman

The Westland Medical Centre will fall back to one GP from today — just months after a second doctor was reinstated.
Dr Sheryl Larsen, who joined the practice in November ending an 18 month stint as a sole doctor clinic, is retiring.
Westland Medical Centre managing director Nigel Ogilvie said Dr Larsen, a former South Westland roving GP, was returning to the North Island to follow other pursuits.
Her exit was a blow for the centre which was already in recruitment mode, he said
“She was a fantastic GP and we are going to miss her greatly.”
Mr Ogilvie said the centre was in discussions with the New Zealand Medical Council and other health networks, such as the South Island Alliance Regional Training Hub (SIRTH), for temporary staff relief.
“We are looking to bring new doctors that are looking to change their vocation to a general practitioner into our practice as part of that training module.”
Its Australian locum rotation — which had had a six month gap — could also be re-utilised.
The centre started the overseas exchange last year, bringing in short-term locums for up to six weeks, to fill the gap.
However, neither were long term options, Mr Ogilvie said. “We need two fulltime doctors minimum and we do not want to wait another 18 months.”
Ideally, the medical centre could do with anther part-time doctor, but there had been no increase in funding from the Ministry of Health for some years, Mr Ogilvie said.
Also, recruiting GPs to the West Coast was not an easy task.
He said over the years, Hokitika had lost GP practices to retirement or burnout, and no other practitioner had been prepared to fill the gap, leaving Westland Medical Centre as the sole provider of GP services
The three privately-owned practices on the West Coast incurred high costs associated with finding locums and long term general practitioners, Mr Ogilvie said
Before Dr Larsen was employed, German doctor Matthias Schneider pulled out from taking a 12 month contract just weeks before he was due to start.
Dr Fiona Morris left the Hokitika practice in 2011.
Mr Ogilvie said during the gap the additional workload had largely been picked up by its highly qualified nurses — who had been working up to 65 hour weeks alongside Dr Dyzel.
Until temporary or long term recruitment was in place the centre would fall back to that position again. Its operations, including patient waiting times, would not be affected if the nurses were utilised correctly, he said.