West Coast case study – Closing the distance
On the rural West Coast a trip to the GP traditionally involved a long drive – and seeing a hospital specialist could require several hours on the road each way.
That's changing, thanks to modern high-definition video links – which are being deployed in eight towns up and down the Coast – from Karamea in the north to Haast in the south.
Those towns have medical centres staffed round the clock by rural nurse specialists who provide most of the care. A GP is only on site one day a week.
In the past if a patient needed to see the GP they often faced a six-day wait or a long drive to one of the provincial centres.
Greymouth GP Greville Wood says patients in those towns are now able to book a video link – with a GP or specialist in Greymouth or Westport.
'The nurse stays with them during that hook-up to carry out any measurements that may be required, to support the patient and to begin planning follow-up care.
'It's surprisingly good – tonnes better than a telephone. I've actually found that some patients can speak more freely over this video link. I don't know why that is but they discuss things they would never have discussed face to face. Although it is still an important part of the relationship that we do see them in person when possible,' Dr Wood says.