The original intention for the Partnership Community Worker (PCW) project in 2006 was for it to be an extension of the Pegasus Health General Practice and furthermore to be a bridge between the community and primary healthcare. It was believed that a close working relationship between the Practice Nurse and the PCW would help the target population of Māori, Pacifica and low income people to address and overcome their perceived barriers to healthcare which included: finance, transport, anxiety, cultural issues, communication, or lack of knowledge.
Seven years later although the PCW project has been deemed a success in the Canterbury District Health Board annual reports (2013-14) and community and government agencies, including the Christchurch Resettlement Service (2012), many of the Pegasus Health General Practices have not utilised the project to its full extent, hence the need for this research.
I was interested in finding out in the first instance if the model had changed and, if so why, and in the second instance if the promotional material currently distributed by Pegasus Health Primary Health Organisation reflected the daily practice of the PCW. A combination of methods were used including: surveys to the Pegasus Health General Practices, interviews with PCWs, interviews with managers of both the PCW host organisations and referring agencies to the PCW project. All the questions asked of all the participants in this research were focussed on their own perception of the role of the PCW.
Results showed that the model has changed and although the publications were not reflecting the original intention of the project they did reflect the daily practice of the PCWs who are now struggling to meet much wider community expectations and needs.
Partnership Community Worker (PCW) interviews: Seventeen PCWs of the 19 employed were interviewed face to face. A number expressed interest in more culturally specific training and some are pursuing qualifications in social work; for many pay parity is an issue. In addition, many felt overwhelmed by the expectations around clients with mental health issues and housing issues now, post-earthquakes.
Medical Practice surveys: Surveys were sent to eighty-two Pegasus Health medical practices and of these twenty five were completed. Results showed the full capacity of the PCW role was not clearly understood by all with many believing it was mostly a transport service. Those who did understand the full complexity of the role were very satisfied with the outcomes.
PCW Host Community Manager Interviews: Of the ten out of twelve managers interviewed, some wished for more communication with Pegasus Health management because they felt aspects of both the PCW role and their own role as managers had become blurred over time.
Referring organisations: Fifteen of the fifty referring community or government organisations participated. The overall satisfaction of the service was high and some acknowledged the continuing need for PCWs to be placed in communities where they were well known and trusted.
Moreover results also showed that both the Canterbury earthquakes 2010-2011 and the amalgamation of Partnership Health PHO and Pegasus Health Charitable Limited in 2013 have contributed to the change of the model. Further future research may also be needed to examine the long term effects on the people of Canterbury involved in community work during the 2011-2014 years.