Kids missing out on after-hours care
Children in Invercargill, Mataura and Lumsden are missing out on a free after-hours urgent health service being offered to the rest of the country.
Health ministry figures show the free service for children under 6 is available to 90 per cent of New Zealand.
However, Invercargill, Mataura and Lumsden are still waiting for the free service, part of an election commitment from the Government.
An after-hours urgent doctor service is available in Invercargill but is not presently free for those under 6.
The Southern Primary Health Organisation said at the start of the month it had reached an agreement with the Southern Health Board to implement the Government policy in the southern region.
SPHO chief executive Ian Macara said while Dunedin and the majority of the southern region could access the service, parents from Invercargill, Mataura and Lumsden would have to wait a while longer.
"General practices support the local Urgent Doctor Service and the initiative [Free After-hours urgent health service for under 6s] is presently under discussion," he said.
Mr Macara said he understood some parents might be frustrated by the lack of the service but GPs, the DHB and the SPHO were continuing negotiations.
Invercargill mother Katrina Ritani said it was unfair Invercargill did not have access to the same services as the rest of the country.
"We pay our taxes, I assumed it had already happened as part of an election promise," she said. "Our kids are just as important as those in the rest of the country."
Mel Smith said the service would help struggling families and reduce the pressure on the hospital emergency department.
The initiative was voluntary and the potential for financial risk for practitioners was one of the issues arising from negotiations with Invercargill doctors, Mr Macara said.
Other critical issues were determining the demand for the service, demand management, continuity of patient care, triaging and staffing, he said.
The SPHO and DBH would continue to work with GPs to find a solution, he said.
"We are all in this together and believe the minister's goal is laudable," he said.
Children were a vulnerable group and the barriers to treatment needed to be reduced, Mr Macara said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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