DHB stands by decision to axe school doctors

6:59 pm on 29 July 2020

Tairawhiti District Health Board will not reinstate free GP appointments at three Gisborne city high schools, board chairperson Kim Ngarimu says.

Gisborne Girls’ High School students Madison Haggland (left), Talia Chetty, Leah Scholefield, Emily Horne and Samara Wharehinga-Walters put their concerns to Hauora Tairawhiti board members yesterday.

Gisborne Girls' High School students Madison Haggland (left), Talia Chetty, Leah Scholefield, Emily Horne and Samara Wharehinga-Walters put their concerns to Tairawhiti DHB last month. Photo: LDR / Aaron van Delden

Ngarimu has written to the Gisborne Girls' High School students who last month presented to the board a 1000-signature petition asking it to bring back the free school-based GP appointments - at least until an alternative service is up and running.

The GP appointments were available up until this year at Gisborne Girls', Gisborne Boys' and Lytton high schools, where more than 70 percent of the region's 3000 secondary students are enrolled.

"The decision made not to continue the service was based on a number of factors, many of which have not changed," Ms Ngarimu said in her letter.

The factors are not detailed in the letter but the board has previously said it wanted to put the $124,000 it spent each year on the GP service into designing more equitable youth health services while highlighting that the free appointments were not available at every high school in the region.

One proposal is to set up hubs in Gisborne city and Ruatoria where young people can access free healthcare, but the students called for the DHB to discuss with them the issues associated with centralising health services at hubs.

Ngarimu said the DHB acknowledged the students were not consulted over the decision to stop funding the in-school GP appointments.

"There is other work under way that would see the reinvestment of the funds previously used for GPs in schools," she said.

The DHB expected to engage with young people as part of this work.

"We will ensure the invitation to participate in this work is made known to you," Ms Ngarimu told the students.

Board member Tony Robinson apologised to the students at last month's board meeting for the DHB's lack of consultation.

One of the students at the meeting, Emily Horne, described returning to school at the start of the year when "the service just wasn't there any more, which left a lot of students vulnerable".

Fellow year 12 student Madison Haggland said she and her peers would be keeping tabs on the DHB's redesign of youth health services.

The board's decision on the in-school GP service, as outlined in Ngarimu's letter, was "not quite the outcome we were hoping for", Madison said.

Following the students' presentation last month, Ngarimu said the board would seek advice from health officials on the points raised by the students and consider that advice at its 28 July meeting.

That advice was not included in the meeting's agenda but Ngarimu told board members she had sent the students a letter.

The letter was read out at yesterday's meeting after board member Heather Robertson asked what was in it.

The students received the letter on Monday.

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