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Around 1600 patients are being redirected to Te Korowai's Paeroa health centre. Photo: DAVIDDA HIKATANGATA

Te Korowai closes rural medical clinic

A shortage of medical staff has forced the temporary closure of Te Korowai’s Te Aroha Whānau Health Centre, resulting in around 1600 patients being redirected to Paeroa.

The Te Aroha centre, which is a satellite clinic of Te Korowai Hauora O Hauraki, ceased appointments on May 31. 

A letter sent to affected patients said the closure was a difficult decision. 

“Unfortunately, the current workforce shortages with medical practitioners that we require to ensure the continued delivery of quality medical care from our Te Aroha Whānau Health Centre  has made it increasingly difficult for us to operate,” the letter said. 

“After considerable reflection… we have had to make this very difficult decision to temporarily downsize our medical care services.” 

The clinic was already operating with reduced hours, with services only available on Wednesdays. From June 4, the medical team, receptionist and kaiāwhina will be relocated to Te Korowai’s Paeroa Whānau Health Centre. 

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A Te Korowai spokesperson said the 1600 enrolled patients who identified Te Aroha as their preferred treatment site would still be eligible to receive medical services at other Te Korowai clinics in the district. 

“There is an international and national shortage of clinical staff, particularly GPs,” the spokesperson said. 

“We are however fortunate to be able to continue to deliver services from another of our sites… We do acknowledge that travel can be an issue for some whānau, particularly in our rural locations.” 

The consolidation of staff to one site would help manage wait times for patients in the meantime, they said, with two GPs, three clinical nurses and two kaiāwhina now available in Paeroa. 

The spokesperson also said the organisation was committed to keeping practice fees affordable despite the need to attract more staff.

The organisation will continue to advertise for new recruits, but said it could not reopen services in Te Aroha until it could ensure its services could be delivered safely for both patients and staff.

“Unfortunately the shortage has made this an extremely challenging employment market,” the spokesperson said. 

“Furthermore, it would be remiss of Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki to not mention the need for appropriate and sufficient general practice funding required from government, considering the pressures on services and constraints on access are even more accentuated in Pare Hauraki, as a rural sector of the health system.”