2014 Article from NZ Doctor Newsroom on Free Doctor’s Visits

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Community trust to fund GP visits for poorer upper Clutha children

The Upper Clutha region in Central Otago is the latest area to introduce free GP visits for six to 12-year olds, albeit only children from poorer families

Liane Topham-Kindleytophamkindley@xtra.co.nzWednesday 12 November 2014, 1:43PM


Eligibility for free GP visits will depend on a level of financial hardship

The Upper Clutha region in Central Otago is the latest area to introduce free GP visits for six to 12-year olds, albeit only children from poorer families, ahead of the Government’s zero fees for under-13s policy set to be introduced next year.

It follows a similar move in Northland where the DHB and its two PHOs have been offering free GP visits and prescriptions for the more than 16,000 under-13s in the region since the beginning of October.

However, in the south it’s not a DHB or PHO behind the generous offer. Instead, a Wanaka-based community trust, the Upper Clutha Childrens’ Medical Trust.

It has decided to pay the fees, including after-hours visits, for children enrolled with either the Wanaka Medical Centre or Aspiring Medical Centre, who fall within the trust’s criteria of demonstrating financial hardship.

The childrens’ families must live in the Upper Clutha area which includes Wanaka, Hawea, Makarora, Tarras, Queensberry and Cardrona.

Subsidy likely to cost trust several thousand

Though not as large scale as the Northland scheme, which is expected to cost about $450,000, the subsidy will still cost the Upper Clutha Childrens’ Medical Trust several thousand dollars.

Trust chair Noeline Harridge says the trust has in mind a figure of how much it will cost to fund the scheme, but she is not prepared to publicly disclose that figure.

Day-time fees for these children at the practices are $10 and $12, while after-hours fees at the Aspiring Medical Centre are $50.

There are 480 six to 12 year-olds enrolled at the Aspiring Medical Centre, but New Zealand Doctor was unable to get the number of enrolments from Wanaka Medical Centre before the time of publication today.

Trust wants to ‘give back’ to the community

Historically, the trust has supported families on an individual basis, but Mrs Harridge says it wants to give back to the community because it has been so supportive of the trust’s fundraising efforts.

Children eligible for the subsidy must come from families that have a Community Services Card or who are receiving Working for Families support, or other similar financial assistance, a media release from the trust says.

Doctors will also have the discretion to use the funding where they consider consultation costs are likely to result in genuine financial hardship, irrespective of whether the family receives another form of financial assistance.

It is understood the trust originally wanted to subsidise fees for all of the community’s children in this age group, but was unable to do so because the its deed has a focus on assisting families who demonstrate financial hardship.

Children will be seen in timely manner

Aspiring Medical Centre practice manager Sally Buttson says the idea was completely the trust’s initiative and it approached the medical centre to gauge its support.

“It’s a fantastic initiative,” Ms Buttson says.

“The most beneficial outcome of the funding will be that parents will bring children to be seen in a timely manner, which should result in improved general health outcomes and fewer acute presentations.”

The trust has printed a flyer explaining why it is providing the subsidy which will be given to families when they go to reception to pay for their child’s visit.

Trust has supported more than 100 families

The trust was formed in 2009 when it became apparent there were families in the Upper Clutha area who were struggling financially because of the demands placed on them by their children’s health issues.

According to the trust’s website, the area is the furthest distance from a base hospital than anywhere in New Zealand and many families face considerable costs if they have to travel out of the region for specialist visits.

The trust provides financial assistance for the medical treatment of children by specialists, as well as transport and accommodation costs.

More than 100 families have received support from the trust to date. Some assistance is short-term but other cases, relating to chronic, long-term medical problems, receive support such as counselling, speech language therapy and psychological consultations.

Related link
Information about the Upper Clutha Children’s Medical Trust