Who is CPRG

Canterbury Primary Response Group (CPRG) is a collaborative group of health professionals and provider organisations tasked by Te Whatu Ora Health NZ to lead the Waitaha Canterbury district’s primary care emergency planning, response and recovery. CPRG meets regularly and issues updates to primary care providers as well as communicates with Te Whatu Ora Waitaha Canterbury, Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) and other relevant organisations in Canterbury.

A Canterbury-wide health response was planned in 2005 when the district turned its attention to the Avian Influenza threat. This was exercised in full when H1N1 Swine Flu arrived in New Zealand in late April 2009. Dr Phil Schroeder, nurse leader Kelly Robertson, strategist David Rosevear (and later on, Graeme McColl) and team led the primary health response in Canterbury where there was widespread use of flu centres (Community-based Assessment Centres, or CBACs) to both treat and protect the Canterbury population.

In 2010 it was recognized that further emergency planning was required for primary health in the event of other emergencies or natural disasters. Dr Schroeder and the Canterbury Primary Response Group were called to lead the primary health response and recovery following the February 22, 2011 earthquake that devastated Christchurch.

Since then CPRG has supported many other emergency responses and led the development of a comprehensive set of plans that would be implemented in the event of a future emergency and to help contribute to a whole-of-health response should it be required. The CPRG Emergency Plan can be found here. An A4 flyer presenting the CPRG organisation can be found here.

Our aim

CPRG’s aim:

  • To support Canterbury general practice and community pharmacy to continue to provide healthcare services to their communities during and after emergency events.

This will be achieved by:

  • Promoting readiness, resilience and recovery planning to minimise the impact of an emergency event affecting primary healthcare.
  • Monitoring the hazardscape and communicating potential risks to primary healthcare providers and key partners.
  • Establishing a collaborative and coordinated emergency primary health care response, contributing to a whole-of-health emergency response.
  • Considering equity to drive every aspect of support to primary healthcare, including delivery of emergency services and maintenance of essential business-as-usual services during emergency and recovery periods.

The CPRG team

Canterbury Primary Response Group consists of a core group of clinicians and managers to support the planning and implementation of an emergency response in Canterbury. In an emergency event, the wider Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) may be activated. The EOC is supported by Te Whatu Ora Waitaha Canterbury, Pegasus Health, Waitaha Primary Health PHO, and Christchurch PHO.

Deborah Callahan

Emergency Response Manager

Deborah has been officially working in emergency management since 2011 but she was part of earlier event responses such as H1N1.  Her role in CPRG evolved after the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake response where she was Logistics manager. Since then she has been supporting the development of an organised primary care-led Emergency Operations Centre. The role supports emergency planning by CPRG on behalf of general practice and community pharmacy, and facilitates interaction between PHOs, Te Whatu Ora Waitaha (previously the Canterbury District Health Board) and other emergency agencies. In the COVID-19 pandemic Deborah took on the role of EOC Manager then was seconded to the role of Te Whatu Ora Transalpine Emergency Management and Business Continuity Manager. While on secondment, Martin Carrell took on the role of CPRG Emergency Response Manager and successfully filled that role until his resignation in January 2024. Deborah is performing this role again in the interim until a new appointment can be made. 

Dr Justin Fletcher
Dr Justin Fletcher

GP Clinical Lead

Justin Fletcher is a general practitioner with a developing interest in emergency response. Justin joined CPRG at the beginning of 2022 after becoming involved in the COVID-19 response while working at community testing centres from early 2020. He is a member of the COVID Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and provides a primary and community perspective to emergency planning and response. He continues to combine his role as clinical lead with an ongoing position in a general practice clinic.

Bill Eschenbach

Rural Liaison

Bill provides a strong rural perspective to CPRG. As Chief Executive of Waitaha Primary Health PHO, Bill has extensive emergency planning, response and recovery experience. He brings strong cross-system linkages and rural primary care knowledge.

What – or who – is the Primary Emergency Operations Centre (EOC)?

CPRG is responsible for activating, or assembling, the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), which is the team of people on the end of the emails and phones whose aim is to help make sure general practice and community pharmacy are able to look after their patients in an emergency event.

What is an emergency? A health emergency may be a natural or man-made event that suddenly or significantly disrupts the care and treatment of patients; or changes or increases demand for an organisation’s services. It may have no warning, such as an earthquake, or come with prior warning, e.g. a pandemic.

The Primary EOC sits within a structure of other EOCs (such as Hillmorton Hospital, Christchurch Hospital, etc.), under the umbrella of  Te Whatu Ora Waitaha Canterbury Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC), all with the objective of managing the emergency response for the Canterbury health system. EOCs are based on the Coordinated Incident Management System (CIMS). More information on CIMS can be found here: https://www.civildefence.govt.nz/resources/coordinated-incident-management-system-cims-third-edition/

The Primary EOC structure for the COVID-19 response was:

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