Health ‘sav­ings’ may be costly

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KARO­LINE TUCKEY

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.

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