Counties Manukau GPs and pharmacies step in to help support winter surge over Mānawatia a Matariki

Over 1,400 people accessed free GP care and hundreds more took advantage of free pain relief for children at pharmacies across Counties Manukau last weekend, prompting more health providers to step in and help this Matariki weekend.

Around 30 general practices and 100 pharmacies in the Counties Manukau region are participating in the initiatives aimed at taking some of the pressure off Middlemore Hospital’s emergency department, which has seen a record number of presentations for winter illnesses.

Middlemore had over 100 fewer presentations to its emergency department last weekend compared to the previous weekend.

Counties Manukau Chief Executive Dr Pete Watson said that the impact of the initiatives will continue to be monitored over the coming long weekend.

“We have heard some good success stories from GPs and pharmacists so far,” he said.

“Some GPs have reported they managed to see patients who would not have come in if there was a cost. This demonstrates the need out there at the moment and also means that some of these people are now able to get care before their condition worsens and they end up in hospital.” 

Pharmacies were also busy at the weekend with parents and caregivers taking advantage of the free pain relief (paracetamol and ibruprofen) for children 13 and under. Pharmacists are also able to provide a free consultation, many by phone, as well as face-to-face, to help people understand if they do need a higher level of care. 

“This has been one of our busiest winters for many years, so having more options for people who need care at the weekend is really important for helping to manage the impact on our hospitals. We know that GPs, nurses and pharmacists are incredibly busy at the moment, and really appreciate all the extra support they are providing our communities,” Dr Watson added. 

People are also being encouraged to call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for information or advice on how to manage cold or flu symptoms. Healthline is free, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and has interpreters available. Anyone wanting health advice can contact Healthline and get the support they need and information about what to do, including self-care advice.

Dr Watson added that preventation was also a key point for people to think about heading into the long weekend.

“Keep up the great work with mask wearing and stay home if you’re unwell. These are the most important things we can do to stop the virus from spreading. I would also encourage people to get out this weekend and get a flu vaccination if they can.”

Flu and COVID-19 vaccinations are available at all of Auckland’s community vaccinations centres and through most GPs and participating pharmacies.

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