21 Jun 2022

Without a 24/7 clinic, hospital is East Aucklanders' only choice

From Checkpoint, 5:12 pm on 21 June 2022

East Auckland residents say they have been bounced between clinics and are waiting hours on end for urgent after-hours health care.

The population in the area is an estimated 140,000 people, but there's not a single 24/7 health centre servicing locals, who instead head to an already overloaded Middlemore Hospital.

Botany MP and Opposition leader Chris Luxon said his call to reinstate funding for a local overnight service had fallen on deaf ears.

"The wait is just terrible, the wait times, especially for the population that is growing now," one local resident told Checkpoint.

"Undoubtedly they haven't kept up with the population growth," said another.

"The waiting time is too long … I feel so sorry for the people who are sick."

One young mother described a long wait to be seen for a bad headache.

"I had to go to [Bakerfield Medical and Urgent Care] in Manukau. They sent us back to East Care, and I was having a really bad headache. I couldn't even see. I had to wait there for three to four hours to get urgent care ... that also had a long queue."

East Care in Botany used to be accessible 24/7, but does not open through the night anymore.

If locals have a health emergency, they have to travel to Middlemore Hospital's emergency department, about 20 minutes' drive from East Care.

In 2020 funding was cut for East Care's overnight service. There has been no detail provided about the decision.

At the time the clinic lost overnight funding, chief executive Gordon Armstrong said it was the highest volume provider of overnight primary care in Auckland, serving an area of about 140,000 people.

"I have to go to Middlemore, unfortunately, which is hard with little ones because it's not close, not local, and we've got A&E right there which used to be 24 hours, so it would be awesome if it could resume that," one local in Botany said.

Others in Botany who spoke to Checkpoint speculated that Middlemore's emergency department got busy with many who could not afford the fees at 24-hour clinics.

However, Health Minister Andrew Little does not believe east Auckland's emergency health access problems are symptomatic of a crisis. But he does acknowledge it is a problematic situation.

Botany MP and National leader Chris Luxon said he had been chasing up the issue.

"It's about three or $400,000, and it would take the load out of Middlemore. At the time Middlemore said, 'no we've got this all under control, we've got our emergency department functioning just superbly well'. 

"But I think what we're seeing is actually funding those primary health organisations to provide those emergency services is a good thing. It actually keeps people away from the ED."