From roadside pop-up desk to fully fledged practice, Te Atatū GPs succeed


From roadside pop-up desk to fully fledged practice, Te Atatū GPs succeed

Te Atatu Health frontage
Its location in the heart of the village is a big drawcard for some patients of the newly opened Te Atatū Health

“There’s no A to Z of opening a practice”

Three weeks into opening and Te Atatū Health has already switched PHOs, is enrolling up to 50 new patients a week, is about to bring onboard a third GP and has been offered the loan of tukutuku panels made by prisoners to adorn their walls.

Each of these achievements speaks to the vision GPs Marcus Bishop and Kay Drader have for their practice.

Switching from the large ProCare PHO, to the “small and responsive” Comprehensive Care, has been great, Dr Drader says.

Not growing too large or fast to restrict their ability to respond quickly and offer quality patient care is one of the ideals of their practice.

The two GPs took to the streets last November to enrol patients using with a pop-up registration desk and scanner outside their uncompleted practice building.

Dr Drader says they now have about 1200 patients, served by one-and-a-half full-time equivalent GPs, plus three nurses (2.5 FTE) who are able to make their own patient appointments for items like follow-ups or blood-pressure and diabetes checks.

“To have that number of patients within four weeks of opening is quite humbling,” she says.

One of the nurses is trained in nutrition, and a physiotherapy business operates from the front room of the practice.

The practice also offers email consults where appropriate, which could be just a quick question following an in-person consult, for between $10 and $22, and plans to bring in video consults using software.

Practice partner Kay Drader with practice manager Leeanne Boyle
Patients love location

A local resident, Dr Bishop is well known and respected in the community, which appears to have helped bring in enrolments.

However, practice manager Leeanne Boyle says some of the positive feedback the practice has received online and in person is about accessibility.

Te Atatū Health is located in the heart of Te Atatū village and people love the fact they can walk to the practice, Mrs Boyle says.

They also appreciate the friendly smiling staff, the fact it is a male-female partnership and that the practice is happy to have open notes, she says.

As well as being able to book appointments and check lab results online, patients have full access to their notes, via MyPractice’s Health365 programme.

The vine and honeycomb trellis at the entrance represents growth and change and will grow alongside the practice
Standing room only at whakatau

The practice held a whakatau blessing ceremony on 2 January where west Auckland kaumātua Wimutu Te Whiu and Reverend Amiria Te Whiu helped local children lead the way through the building, touching the walls to imbue them with positive energy, Mrs Boyle says.

Staff were touched by the fact that, despite it being the holidays, there was standing room only at the whakatau, she says.

It was during the opening that Reverend Te Whiu offered the tukutuku panels. They will go with other art pieces intended for the walls of the clinic.

The practice owners wanted patients to feel relaxed and welcomed in the space
By design

Interior design company Think&Shift, whose portfolio includes bars, retail spaces and ad and music studio offices, are responsible for the practice's stylish design.

Drs Drader and Bishop thought very carefully about the design. They wanted something recognising the space as part of the healing service they offer, Dr Drader says.

“We tried to think about it as a place you come to and feel relaxed, at ease and welcomed.”

As Mrs Boyle puts it, they wanted to avoid both the severely clinical or the hodge-podge approach which many clinics fall into.

The former bank building features high ceilings and windows
Set-up challenging

However, setting up a new practice has not been easy.

Connecting to the internet was hard enough given most of the country shuts down over the holidays.  Discovering and connecting to all the different government and primary care organisations needed to ensure funding flows to the practice was equally difficult and took much longer than expected.

The practice's self-imposed two-tier funding scheme offering cheaper fees for people who may not qualify for government subsidies but are still struggling, further complicates matters.

“There’s no A to Z of opening a practice,” Mrs Boyle says, although she is now considering writing one herself.

Consult desk
The bed in the consult room is screened off from the entrance way
Drinking fountain
Think&Shift carried out the interior design