Free care 'OK if you can find a doctor'

20:48, Jun 29 2012
Lily Scott and Alma Shaw
TOO DEAR: Alma Shaw, mum of two-year-old Lily Scott, left her last doctor because it was too expensive to take her young child and she could not afford it as a single mum.

Solo mum Alma Shaw built up so many unpaid doctors' fees for her baby that her GP removed her from the books.

Mid-winter colds meant Ms Shaw was regularly taking her then six-month-old daughter Lily to Lower Hutt's Ropata Medical Centre, costing her $15 a time.

She had a "completely helpless" newborn who at one time got so sick she needed weekly appointments until it cleared up.

"My partner left me and I was having issues paying bills straight away. They kicked me out because I could not pay straight away.

"When you're struggling on child support, $15 is a huge amount."

There were times when the cost forced her to wait until after hours to use free accident and emergency services.


She eventually paid off the $60 debt in $5 weekly instalments, but was still not welcome back.

Ropata Medical Centre business manager Jonathan Morgan refused to comment about any patient's details, but said the surgery would be doing away with its $17 appointments for under-six-year-olds to become free for registered patients in that age bracket tomorrow.

Ms Shaw, however, had found free healthcare for Lily and cheaper visits for herself at Stokes Valley Medical Centre in April last year.

A mother of three children under five, Jessica Venning-Bryan, says free GP visits for under six-year-olds is all well and good, if you are lucky enough to be registered. When she and her husband moved their young family from Auckland to Upper Hutt two years ago, they spent six months finding a surgery to take them on.

Even now, registered with a GP, it was difficult to get an appointment if triage did not consider her children sick enough.


Free doctors care for kids

Contact Jody O'Callaghan
Consumer affairs, and Attractions and Events reporter
Email: jody.o'
Twitter: @miss_jodyo

The Dominion Post