Watch out for unexpected fees
I recently had occasion to visit Kenepuru Accident and Medical Clinic, after my husband had fallen and hurt his hip.
After the consultation, which took place within working hours and without any treatment other than an x-ray and pain relief, I was stunned to be told I had to pay a full consultation fee of $35.
When I objected, stating that it should be covered by ACC, I was told, ‘‘ ACC doesn’t pay the doctors’’. I paid up, but have since been trying to discover the reason for this stance.
Like many others, I had thought that because the clinic was situated within Kenepuru Hospital, the clinic should, like the Accident and Emergency Department in Wellington Hospital, be free during working hours.
I understood the after hours situation, when the medical consultations are provided by local GPs, as they used to be in the after hours unit in Porirua.
But I thought that during working hours the doctors would be paid by the District Health Board. However, I have made inquiries and will try to clarify the situation.
The main problem with our perception is the simple fact that the clinic is located on the hospital premises.
In particular, we who have contributed to the health system through our taxes expect our hospitals to be free. That is why we could take our accidents etc to Wellington Hospital and pay nothing.
But Kenepuru is in a different situation. The clinic is exactly that – a clinic, equivalent to the local medical centres run by the GPs.
Its location and facilities aside, it is not linked to the hospital. It is run in just the same way as our own GP’s practice.
After normal working hours, it is staffed by local GPs and therefore is in the same category as after hours medical centres in other places.
Most of us would remember when there was a small after hours centre in Hartham Pl. It has simply moved to the Kenepuru building.
The other difference is the way in which ACC covers accident cases.
Many, if not most, medical centres and services charge a top-up fee over and above what ACC pays. Again, because the Kenepuru clinic is not part of the hospital service, that is what happens.
ACC does pay a subsidy to the clinic, it seems, but many of us would be upset by the amount demanded of us.
In the meantime, there are cases when the clinic provides free service. For example:
After hours and ACC services for all children under-6.
If you are admitted to hospital or referred to another specialist department.
If you are sent by a doctor or other health professional.
The important thing to remember is that if we can get in to our local GP, we should not head for the clinic at the hospital. After hours, the clinic is where we go. Anyone who qualifies for emergency treatment is sent, or taken, to Wellington Hospital’s accident and emergency department.
Meanwhile, last month, we learned what is now expected of home owners in terms of insuring their house and contents. This month we have invited Cecilee Donovan from Grandparents Raising Grandchildren to address us.
I am sure you will find what she has to say interesting, especially given the front page headline in a recent issue of The Dominion Post.
Why not come and learn about a great organisation that is working so hard for children?