Sean Ellison with the picture of his late father Dr Tom Ellison that hangs inside Raglan Community Medical Centre.                                                                                          The centre is dedicated to Dr Tom, who was the impetus for the marae-based clinic.

Plug pulled on GP clinic at Raglan’s Poihakena Marae

Patients of Raglan Community Medical Centre will need to go elsewhere to see a doctor when the marae-based facility pares down its services at the middle of this month.

From Monday August 13 patients must opt either to travel into Te Kohao Health in Hamilton East – of which the Raglan centre has operated as a satellite clinic – or to enrol and make appointments with West Coast Health Clinic in Wallis Street for their ongoing medical care.

Currently the clinic at Poihakena Marae is staffed by Te Kohao Health GPs on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The ongoing difficulties staffing the Raglan clinic were outlined this week in a letter sent to all Raglan patients by the Hamilton organisation’s practice manager, Linda Elgar.
“Our aim has always been to provide a Kaupapa Maori Health service offering optimal quality of care to all whanau who enrolled with the GP service,” she wrote. “One that provides a full time doctor working out of the clinic for at least five days per week.

“Unfortunately we have not been able to attract a full time doctor to Raglan and therefore have been utilising our current doctors who are based in Hamilton.

“Combined with stretching our current resources and the financial constraints from this, this proved to be a challenge and ultimately impacts on whanau wanting high quality and continuity of care.”

Te Kohao Health managing director Tureiti Moxon told the Chronicle the Raglan service had been “financially unviable” for a long time.
“We want to give the best possible service but it’s been a bit hit-and-miss (in Raglan),” she said.

What was really needed was a doctor living within the Whaingaroa community and working from the satellite clinic.
This goal had actually become a reality for a very short time some years back – when a South African doctor was recruited to Raglan – but  since her departure it had been a case of “soldiering on regardless”.

Tureiti Moxon said it was also unfortunate the Raglan Community Medical Centre hadn’t had enough patients coming through its doors to warrant a full time doctor, adding “it breaks my heart to pull out”.
But the withdrawal of a GP service was not the end of everything, she emphasised. “We are keeping (some) services out there … and working closely with the marae.”

Among those services will be a whanau ora navigator or iwi health worker to support families with high needs in – for instance – health, housing or education.
And there will be an integrated attendance service working in with Raglan Area School staff.
Also a weekly kaumatua leadership programme for the elderly will continue with local kaumatua Sean Ellison, who has been right behind the initiative between Poihakena Marae and Te Kohao Health since its inception in 2012.

The Raglan centre is dedicated to the memory of his late father Tom Ellison, a local GP who served the community for 45 years. It was a long-held dream of Dr Tom’s – as he was widely known – to create a marae-based clinic in  Raglan similar to that in Hamilton East where he also worked as a locum.

Sean told the Chronicle it was “disappointing” to lose the GP service at the community medical centre because of unviability. Patient numbers weren’t going to increase “with no full time doctor on”.

He was sceptical of suggestions that virtual consultations – with a nurse based at the local clinic while ‘zooming in’ on screen to a doctor in Hamilton East – could be a way forward, given that “a lot of our (computer-illiterate) people” might well find this modern technological approach unsatisfactory.   

Edith Symes