Free health pro­gramme tar­gets Toko­roa chil­dren

Free health care is on the cards for Toko­roa’s youth. Caitlin Wal­lace re­ports.

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

Money will no longer be an is­sue for fam­i­lies strug­gling to pay child doc­tor fees.

May 1 will see the Toko­roa Med­i­cal Cen­tre be­come the sec­ond cen­tre to of­fer free health care to chil­dren aged 0-18.

Mid­land Health Net­work chief ex­ec­u­tive John Ma­caskil­lSmith be­lieved costs may have been a fac­tor for par­ents avoid­ing the doc­tor.

‘‘We un­der­stand there have been oc­ca­sions where par­ents and care­givers may not have taken their child to see a GP, nurse or other health pro­fes­sional for med­i­cal ad­vice and sup­port be­cause of bar­ri­ers such as cost,’’ he said.

The hope is that the scheme will en­cour­age par­ents not to de­lay med­i­cal treat­ment for their child and en­cour­age more proac­tive and pre­ven­tive use of the lo­cal health ser­vices, he said.

Mean­while, Toko­roa Health Limited has of­fered the free ser­vice to chil­dren un­der 18 for the past three years.

Dr Iain McDon­ald from Toko­roa Health Limited said the ini­tia­tive has been suc­cess­ful in tar­get­ing age groups. ‘‘I think that we are able to see an aw­ful lot more people, more of the teenagers be­cause it’s a group we don’t see a lot of,’’ he said.

McDon­ald said he was pleased that Mid­lands had fol­lowed suit.

Macaskill-Smith said they too have re­alised the po­ten­tial ben­e­fit free health care will bring to teenagers.

‘‘This is a vi­tal time in their lives to ed­u­cate them on the im­por­tance of be­ing healthy and ac­cess­ing the right health care ser­vices at the right time,’’ he said.

The cost of a con­sul­ta­tion for pa­tients in the 0-6 years age group is free right now but pa­tients aged 6-18 years pay $11.50.

Mid­lands will still re­ceive the same fund­ing from the govern­ment, he said.

How­ever, the or­gan­i­sa­tion has de­cided to re- pri­ori­tise its spend­ing.

‘‘This is the first of a num­ber of changes Mid­lands Health Net­work, Pin­na­cle and Toko­roa Med­i­cal Cen­tre will be work­ing through with a view to achiev­ing bet­ter health out­comes for the South Waikato com­mu­nity,’’ Macaskill-Smith said.

HEALTHY KIDS: Taliyah Le­paio-Gamlen, 10, left and Tere­pai Tunupopo-Ta­ma­rama, 9, will be two of the hun­dreds of chil­dren el­i­gi­ble to re­ceive free health care.

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