Youth health service to close
All of the staff at one-stop shop Waves have been laid offKIRSTY MCMURRAY
Thousands of young people may miss out on vital healthcare or be dumped on GPs and emergency rooms after a lack of funding forces New Plymouth's free youth health service to close next week.
All of the staff at one-stop shop Waves have been laid off as the organisation has been unable to find the $35,000 a month it needs to run the health and medical service. Only volunteers, a yet to be appointed part-time employee and a part-time manager will be left to run the remaining youth development programmes.
Waves Trust chairman Garth Clarricoats said he was devastated to have to withdraw the services which have seen youth attend more than 5000 free healthcare appointments in the past year.
"It is heartbreaking for us that we will now have to ask these young people to go to the emergency department at base hospital as many of them lack the money to pay for medical consultations."
Waves nurse practitioner and former chairwoman Louise Roebuck said she was "gutted" at the closure of the health service and deeply concerned for New Plymouth's vulnerable and disadvantaged youth.
"I can just see the fallout. There's going to be more crime, more admissions to emergency departments, more kids hanging out on the streets getting drunk, more terminations and more unplanned pregnancies."
While 20 per cent of the young people who went to Waves could possibly afford to pay, the other 80 per cent would struggle to do so, she said. "I just feel really really worried for our young people."
Mr Clarricoats said Waves had been operating on a thin budget for months while trying to attract new financial sponsors.
"We have been planning for this for some time. The reserve funding that we have had we have stretched as long as we can."
The situation came to a head on Friday when the trust was told it could not secure funding from the Taranaki District Health Board.
Taranaki DHB spokeswoman Sandra Boardman said while the DHB had been associated with Waves since 2008, funding for the service had always been directed through a Primary Health Organisation.
"The DHB is not able to offer transitional support to Waves. We note the planned closure by the end of October and will, of course work with Waves to ensure transfer of care to other providers," she said.
Waves acting executive director Craig Campbell-Smart said while the trust received money from a variety of sources including government contracts, grants from community trusts and corporate sponsorship, expenses such as wages, rent and other operational costs were not easily covered.
In 2008, six employees were laid off, the youth development arm was shut and the health service reduced, all because of a lack of funds.
Contact Energy came to the rescue in 2009 when Waves won an online community sponsorship vote which led to it receiving $100,000 a year since.
"They've been an amazing supporter but their priorities have changed."
Mr Clarricoats said Waves was looking to be owned, supported and funded largely by the community.
"We're a community organisation and it's up to the community whether we come back."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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