Update on Primary Care Initiatives

The following information has been issued by Te Whatu Ora. Below are updates to the primary care community in the Cyclone impacted regions.

General Practice

GP clinical telehealth services

You will be aware that we’ve extended the summer seasonal pressure 24/7 clinical telehealth service to include all general practices impacted by the flood/cyclone. This is in addition to the rural general practices, Māori and Pacific general practices who were already covered under the initiative. Practice teams can choose to use this service to refer their patients in times where there is not capacity or they are unable to operate. The service is free to both affected practices and patients to use. It provides 24/7 nurse triage and GP consultations. It can also be used for casual patients accessing care through an eligible impacted general practice. This initiative is in place until 31 March 2023. We will closely monitor the situation to determine if an extension is required.

Virtual and clinical telehealth services

Impacted districts have vouchers available to provide clinical virtual and telehealth consultations from a range of providers, to support patients who are displaced or unable to see their usual general practice.

The clinical telehealth initiatives listed above are intended to supplement the general practices’ existing arrangements. It is not expected this service will replace any existing arrangements.

Primary Care Workforce

Locum GP and Nursing staff

We are working at pace with key sector leads and Te Whatu Ora health workforce team to identify a process and funding to mobilise locum GP and nursing staff into general practices and rural hospitals that have been impacted.

Rural Health

We are working with Hauora Taiwhenua – Rural Health Network to identify supports required for rural general practices and rural hospitals. They have distributed a survey to their membership, and expect to have the feedback collated next week to inform the recovery planning.


Medicines emergency supply

Aligned with the Medsafe extension to the medicine emergency supply provisions (regulation 44(m) of the Medicines Regulations 1984) enables pharmacists to supply up to 14-days’ supply of medicines without a prescription. Currently applies to the following local areas:

  • Bay of Plenty
  • Lakes
  • Tairāwhiti
  • Hawke’s Bay
  • MidCentral (applies only to pharmacies in Dannevirke, Pahiatua and Fielding)
  • Northland
  • Auckland
  • Counties Manukau
  • Waitematā
  • Waikato

People displaced who need a prescription

People who are displaced and need a prescription can also ring Healthline who can do this for free to support the response – ring Healthline 0800 611 116


Clinical telehealth to support emergency call outs

We have extended the support provided to frontline St John paramedics with 24/7 clinical telehealth advice through Whakarongorau (the service is already available through Emergency Consult in the Auckland region). This enables frontline paramedics to access a doctor and see and treat low-acuity cases in the community. This will reduce the need for transportation particularly where roads are unsafe etc, and reduces pressures on ED. This initiative is in place until 31 March 2023. We will closely monitor the situation to determine if an extension is required.

Redeployment of air ambulances

Four air ambulance helicopters have been deployed into Hawkes Bay (one) and Tairawhiti (three), supplementing the air ambulance helicopter in each of those bases. These have been made available for rescues as well as health responses. They have also contributed to improving communications in the region by bringing Star Link communications devices with them. The air ambulance helicopters are also being used to ferry supplies, where this does not compromise their medical and/or rescue missions.