Health ‘savings’ may be costly
The social effects to Porirua of looming budget cuts to a community health centre could cost the government two or three times the amount saved, its manager says.
About 4800 people are currently enrolled at Porirua Union and Community Health Service, which is waiting to hear back from the Capital and Coast District Health Board about whether a reduction of $260,000 in its funding for the next financial year will be confirmed.
The Cannons Creek health service was established in 1990 as a nonprofit organisation to provide affordable and accessible primary health services.
It offers $ 5 or $ 10 doctors’ appointments, free nurses’ appointments, and specialist services including diabetes clinics, podiatrists, dieticians, midwives and translators for refugee populations.
The DHB was trying to make a saving but, says PUCHS manager Hiueni Nuku, ‘‘the social cost of the consequences of that cut is going to be double or more to the community – I think they might reconsider’’.
If the budget cut goes ahead, either fees will have to go up or services will have to be slashed to make ends meet, he says.
‘‘If we increase our fees to cover our costs I think there will be quite a few people that will end up in the hospitals in secondary health. ‘‘I think it makes a big difference. ‘‘It all affects their health – I can see a number of patients can’t even afford $10, as well as the taxi to come in, and they will stay home and then rush to the hospital when it’s too late.
‘‘We know quite a few people can’t afford the fee [now], but we see them regardless.’’
However, downscaling services could take years to regrow from, as medical staff were hard to recruit, he said.
‘‘It took us years to build the facilities, and to restructure is a big thing.
‘‘It’s really hard to attract more doctors here to Cannon’s Creek . . . there’s a national crisis – a shortage of doctors.’’
The centre, which moved into a new $2 million building late last year has nine doctors, eight nurses and five midwives, says bookings are full and the roll is expanding.
Mr Nuku is also concerned the cuts may not be a one-off, and is worried about funding for future years.
The cut is part of a total cut of $ 570,000 to WellHealth, the umbrella organisation that runs PUCHS and several other community health services in Wellington.
WellHealth chief executive Justine Thorpe said funding decreases last year have already taken their toll. ‘‘It’s death by a thousand cuts.’’ CCDHB confirmed a decision was yet to be made about PUCHS funding, but declined to comment further.
Mr Nuku hopes to hear back from the DHB by the start of the new financial year on July 1.