31 May 2016

West Auckland Māori told to boycott after-hours clinic

7:59 pm on 31 May 2016

An urban Māori authority in west Auckland is urging its whānau to boycott an after-hours clinic and go straight to Waitakere Hospital for treatment.

Te Whānau O Waipareira Trust said whānau with after-hours illnesses should go to the hospital's Accident and Emergency Department.

The trust's chief executive, John Tamihere, said the cost of an after-hours visit to a West Auckland clinic was 'outrageous' and many within the community would not be able to afford the $92 fee.

Hospital corridor

Photo: 123RF

The $33 people paid with a community card was still exorbitant for people trying to feed their families.

Te Whanau O Waipareira poster

Te Whānau O Waipareira Trust's poster urging people to go to Waitakere Hospital instead of an after-hours clinic. Photo: SUPPLIED

Mr Tamihere said whānau had got in contact with the trust and said the cost was prohibitive and they put off getting medical help until the next day.

He was concerned if whānau left their winter coughs and flus untreated due to the cost of after-hours care, they could easily escalate into something worse.

Someone could die or be hospitalised because they did not have the money for proper treatment, he warned.

Waipareira Trust would be running adverts in the Western Leader newspaper to alert whānau about its campaign, Mr Tamihere said.

"We have whānau coming to us saying they can't afford the costs and instead of seeking immediate medical care, they wait until the morning," he said.

"We can't allow this to continue because what we don't want is a whānau member to die or be hospitalised because they didn't have the money for proper treatment," he said.

"If you charge at that rate they don't go and if they don't go and it gets worse in the course of the evening they then call ambulances.

"Respiratory issues become major for our elders, for our adults and our youth population. We've got issues of affordability. What do we do, just wait until we get sick enough to ring an ambulance and go straight into hospital?"

He said if they are admitted to hospital that meant at least $2500 from admission upwards in costs.

John Tamihere

John Tamihere Photo: Supplied

Mr Tamihere said people did not always understand how hard it could be for people to get by.

"If you're on $24,000 a year and to make ends meet you're feeding your kids and yourself two-minute noodles for two nights a week just to make it and you get crook twice in one month and you have to pay $33 as an adult, that breaks the budget.

"That tips you into your power bill with the possibility of it being cut off. That tips you out of your ability to get a registration or warrant and then you get pinged in the police road traps, so you start a whole lot of dominoes falling that we don't think are acceptable any longer."

He met with the Waitemata DHB this morning and was grateful for the leadership they showed.

"It takes time for this thing to turnaround, but if we don't stand up for our community to do this, we don't get it changed and we don't get looked after."

Mr Tamihere said he had a meeting with White Cross (clinics) management asking them to lower their fees, but it hadn't gone well.

White Cross told the trust to go to the DHB to subsidise the after-hours fee, Mr Tamihere said.

"They know this is problematic. (They said) 'oh well go to the DHB and tell them to pay us more or go to the government and tell them to pay us more'."

He said the cost was prohibitive as most of the people who struggled to pay the clinic fees were renting.

"There are two types of whānau out here: low income workers on three different jobs of limited duration, whether it's checkout loading, down at the KFC or part-time commercial cleaner, so to suggest that (these) people don't want to work, these guys are trying hard - that's still not making ends meet because of the cost of housing."

This was the trust's second-year running the campaign, but it was the first time anyone had woken up to the fact it was happening, he said.

Waitemata District Health Board's Director of Funding Waitemata, Dr Debbie Holdsworth, said in a statement Waitakere residents should only present to the Waitakere Hospital Emergency Department if they had a medical emergency or were seriously ill.

"Unnecessary presentations to ED will have a significant impact on the care we can provide to people who are seriously ill or injured.

"The ED must be used responsibly and patients should seek the most appropriate form of care for their need. This will usually be their family doctor or urgent care clinic."

Dr Holdsworth said the DHB was actively investing in the area and looking at ways to further improve access.

"Urgent care clinics are heavily subsidised by the DHB for community members with high needs and those over 65.

"Fees for community members with high needs are less than a third of that quoted in the Whānau Waipareira media release."

The media release states the cost of a visit as $92.

White Cross chief executive Alistair Sullivan said in a statement: "Mr Tamihere has complained of this issue in the past. The $92 is only charged to adult non-Community Services Card (CSC) holding patients. This fee is set by the DHB, we cannot lower this due to the after-hours contract.

"We provide free ACC consults 24 hours a day, plus all patients under 13 are seen for free and we provide subsidised visits for CSC holders.

"We would love to do more for these other patients, but we must work within the rules of the health system."