Otangarei nurse-led clinic addresses GP shortage

By D'Angelo Martin

The nationwide shortage of GP's has taken a toll on the small urban community of Otangarei. Community health provider Te Hau Awhiowhio Trust Hauora has been struggling for a long time to try and secure a fulltime GP. So a collective of highly skilled nurses, have taken up the challenge. They form the core of medical practitioners that service the high needs, low income registered population. 

These nurses are helping them, with what are often, complex health issues.

Janine Kaipo, who serves as kaiwhakahaere rauemi (operations manager) for the trust, was under the assumption that finding a GP would be an easy task. Turns out that wasn't the case.

"What we thought would be easy, wasn't like finding a replacement.

"We ended up having to go overseas and while that was a new experience, that wasn't a good experience."

Clinic Practice Manager Charlee Kaipo explains that the success of this nurse-led healthcare model lies in the strong bond between these nurses and the patients. Despite the chronic shortage of GP's, patients needs can still be met. Regular patient, Thomas Marauahi says;

"Got a good relationship with the workers here and our community because they feel like they're in a safe environment here.

"Because we got Māori people that are actually running the show here. I think we're quite lucky to have a good service in Otangarei.

"It'll be sad if this was to close down."

Charlee Kaipo explains;

"It takes a long time to build the trust especially in this community and building up the relationships again.

"Many of our nurses have lived or been brought up in Otangarei. So it's a team model within that nursing model we all rely on each other.

"It's not a hierarchy, there's no chain in command. We all come together as a team to work out our problems finding solutions for our whānau." 

Registered nurse Linda Reihana at Hau Awhiowhio Hauora Trust says;

"We've got a GP shortage in Whangarei and where I work as a nurse-led clinic, we're on the ground and we see people often.

"There's no real waiting time and I can see them, I can assess them and if they fall within my scope I can subscribe if I need."

Lastly, this model has challenged traditional practices that have long been embedded in the health sector, and these nurses aren't just assessing your health.

"It's pushed it out of the boundaries of the holistic, the partial care, you're thinking two steps ahead.

"We're not just dealing with what's in front of us," Janine Kaipo explains.

"At the end of the day, you can have all the medicines and all the equipment which are good.

"But just to listen to people and show that you care is awesome," Linda Reihana says.

Charlee Kaipo ends by reiterating the holistic care that these nurses deliver.

"It's not like a five minute in and out to see the Nurse practitioner or the GP, can take up to forty minutes to an hour to meet and discuss a whole range of their clinical need."

A model that has proved to be something that other clinics in the country can look to as an alternative solution.