Purpose-built medical centre to transform healthcare in Horowhenua

Published on 10 August 2017

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A new medical facility is planned for Levin following persistent growth in patient numbers at the Cambridge Street Medical Centre.

The owners of Cambridge Medical Centre briefed Horowhenua District Council on their plans to build a new health facility that will change the town’s gambit for long-term sustainability of its primary health care services.

Cambridge Street Medical Centre’s Clinical Leader Dr Bente Ongkiehong says in the last few years, the local primary care sector has been struggling to maintain the capacity of their general practitioner’s workforce at a sufficient level to keep up with demand.

“Currently, many local patients will already have experienced significant waiting times to get an appointment with their doctor. And, patient demand for medical services will accelerate as the population grows in line with new forecasts for the district. Alongside this, the effect of an aging population is pressure on services,” she says.

Dr Bente says “Levin, like so many provincial towns in New Zealand, finds it hard to attract skilled medical professionals, and this new facility will help us to better address this problem.”

“We aim to transform local healthcare by creating a modern future-proof facility that will meet the needs of current and future generations living in the Horowhenua. Enhancing the experience of the continuity of care of patients is part of this process.”

Dr Bente says “the project is firming up quickly. The new purpose-built medical centre will provide a range of key medical services in one place. This includes all the core primary care medical services: general practice, nursing and pharmacy. Also, it will have a dedicated skin cancer clinic and dedicate spaces for use by a range of different visiting specialists from the hospital. Further, it is intended to integrate allied health services such as physiotherapy in combination with a gym, and there are several flexible spaces for tenancy by other types of health services.

The current proposal is to build the facility on a block of land on Durham Street at the fringe of Levin’s town centre – Most of the block is Council-owned and used as a car park as well as the Jack Allen House. The new facility will improve the area. It includes a park-like pedestrian access route to the adjacent Levin Adventure Park. Along this route, there will be a cafe with seating on a public square.

The Centre’s Business Development Manager Hans Roberti says the key objective of the project is to create a superior work environment that is attractive and suitable for teaching and training of young health professionals.

 “Our team is reaching out to attract the next generation of young health professionals to the area by providing internships of medical, nursing and allied health students and positions for registrars that want to built-up their experience in rural health. It is vital for the district primary care sector to strengthen its relations with the education programs that nurture the pools of young healthcare talent,” he says.

In addition, for any modern practice, it is important to quickly recognize changing needs in the population and respond to them. This can only be done in joint effort with other regional agencies involved.  There is a good potential for the establishment of systematic research in the district through collaboration with government agencies and universities. Better relations with national research centers will allow us to innovate and ease the implementation of new knowledge, technology and insights into our operations at the front line of care. It will stimulate a conscious effort to continuously improve the quality of our model of care to our patients

The proposal has received letters of support from both the MidCentral District Health Board and the Central PHO. They acknowledge the urgency and need for this type of local initiatives. Already because of the high-needs, the Central PHO provides a higher level of specialist support for elderly people in Horowhenua than it does elsewhere in its jurisdiction.

Mr Roberti says, “the support of the community is essential for this type of project. We want this project to work for the community and are open to ideas or initiatives that will help us to further improve the plan.”

“We’re very conscious that our proposal will require the relocation of the Jack Allen House and the community and patient group services that use it. Therefore, we value the collaboration with the council to coordinate the communication with the community around the project.” “Dr Bente and I are grateful to Horowhenua District Council who has agreed to develop an alternative fit-for-purpose community hub to support the work of the NGO providers involved. We’ll do all we can to support the move, as we recognise the importance of the services they provide in our community,” he says.

Council Economic Development manager Shanon Grainger says Elected Members have indicated support for Council Officers to begin negotiations with the owners of Cambridge Street Medical Centre over the sale of the land.

“The process will take up to a month. Alongside this, Council will work with the NGOs operating from Jack Allen House to come up with a community solution that will help strengthen the social fabric of Horowhenua.”

All going to plan, construction will begin in early 2018, and the new facility will be operational by this time next year.

“Given the significance of the project, Council has assigned a Customer Development Officer to act as a single point of contact to liaise with Cambridge Street Medical Centre’s project team lead across the length of the consenting and construction period.”

Mr Grainger says “We anticipate large projects like this will become a regular feature of the Horowhenua economy. The latest economic statistics and growth predictions all point to significant growth occurring in Horowhenua for the next few generations. House builds are already at historically high levels. Eventually our district and towns will be transformed.”

Read news item:  Opportunity to create new Jack Allen Community Hub

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