(September 2011) by Dr Kate Baddock

I thought this might be a good opportunity to explain a few medical matters that are confusing even to those of us who spend every day working in health. First of all, a couple of definitions:

  • Medical Centre – this is your medical home; where you go for problems or issues relating to your health. More and more there is an acceptance that this is not the place you only attend when you are ill or have a chronic condition. It is the place that you can get information, help and understanding of health issues. And yes, we still write prescriptions.

  • PHO – Primary Health Organisation. Up until June 30 there were two PHOs in this area - Coast to Coast PHO and Harbour Health PHO - but these two PHOs and another one in West Auckland joined together to form a new PHO as of July 1st called Waitemata PHO. Waitemata PHO is one of only two PHOs in the entire Waitemata region and has nearly 200,000 enrolled patients.

    When you enroll with the doctor or practice of your choice, you are (through that enrolment) also enrolled with the PHO. Most of you will not even realize that you belong to a PHO but it is through that connection that the practices are able to provide certain programmes and care packages to you without charge. These programmes include:

  • Diabetes Get Checked - an annual check for people with diabetes.
  • Before Schools Check - a thorough health check for 4 year-olds.
  • Immunisation Outreach – for following up children who have not had their immunisations.
  • Cardiovascular Risk Check – to calculate your risk of heart disease.
  • Primary Options – a programme that allows us to treat people in the community that would otherwise have required admission, e.g. IV antibiotics for tissue infections.
  • Primary Lifestyle Options – a programme for people with mental health issues.
  • Smoking Cessation programme – to help people stop smoking.
  • Palliative Care programme – this allows us to care for people with terminal illness without having to charge them in the final stages of their illness.
  • Asthma Clinics – to help in the management of people with asthma.
  • Care Plus clinics – to assist in the education and management of people with longterm chronic conditions.
  • Sexual Health Consultations – allow subsidized visits for certain age groups.
  • Better at Work - an ACC initiative to work with patients and their employers around injury rehabilitation.
  • This list is not exhaustive but it gives you an idea of the wide variety of programmes that are made possible by belonging to a PHO.

    PHOs came into being in 2002 when the then Labour Government introduced the Primary Health Care Strategy. Times have moved on since then but the idea of PHOs has withstood the test of time. PHOs are governed by a board made up of clinical people, e.g. doctors, nurses and pharmacists, together with iwi and community. They are charged with looking after enrolled populations primarily through General Practices but they also work directly with patients where this is appropriate. The programmes (as above) are funded primarily through contracts that the PHO holds with the Waitemata District Health Board.

    The latest development is the National Government’s Better Sooner More Convenient policy and this has meant that PHOs, and other organisations, have been working even more closely with the Waitemata District Health Board to work out how to deliver services closer to, and more conveniently for, patients. Part of the planning is how to integrate services so that outpatient services, for instance, may occur in Warkworth and Wellsford. Also, in the future, public surgery may be offered at the Rodney Surgical Centre. These are possibilities for the future but it is where Waitemata PHO - your PHO - is trying to head.