Free healthcare extended

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:12 11/07/2012

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Children aged under 6 are now able to access free after-hours healthcare throughout the MidCentral District Health Board area.

The board has invested about $200,000 to ensure preschoolers will have access to after-hours care, as part of health changes announced in the Government's Budget in May.

Children under 6 already had access to free healthcare during normal business hours, but that has now extended to evenings and weekends.

DHB senior portfolio manager for primary care Craig Johnston said the project was a joint initiative among the general practice teams, the Central Primary Health Organisation and the district health board.

"When a child gets sick, nobody wants to take any chances. It is important they can readily access the care they need. We are really pleased that all the general practice teams that provide after-hours services have come on board."

The free service will be available from City Doctors and Radius Medical-The Palms in Palmerston North, Tararua Health Group, practices participating in the Feilding GP roster and Horowhenua GP roster, and the Otaki Medical Centre.

The DHB and Central PHO would work closely with these providers to monitor use of the service and address any potential issues, Mr Johnston said.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said providing free healthcare to under-6s was part of a $28 million spend by the Government over the next four years. "This is an important preventative health measure, as parents are more likely to take their child to the doctor for treatment before their condition becomes severe.

"It will also help reduce the numbers of young children presenting to our busy hospital emergency departments with an illness or injury that a GP could have treated.

"After-hours fees for under-6s previously averaged about $17, but varied from being free to costing nearly $100 per visit at the extreme end. Extending free doctors' visits to after hours means parents shouldn't be put off taking their young children to the doctor because of the cost."

Parents or guardians wanting after-hours access to general practice care could also call Healthline on 0800 611 116 to seek advice from registered nurses.

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- Manawatu Standard

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