Un­der 18? It’s free

The Napier Mail - - FRONT PAGE - TOMMY LIV­INGSTON

Three health clin­ics in Napier have signed up to the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s scheme to see free GP vis­its ex­tended to un­der-18s.

The Doc­tors, Maraenui Med­i­cal Cen­tre and Ta­matea Med­i­cal Cen­tre have agreed to be un­der the scheme.

Ear­lier in the month the DHB ex­tended free GP vis­its be­yond the Gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy to have free pri­mary health­care for those un­der 13 years of age.

The plan, which is due to be in­tro­duced early next year, will aim for all un­der-18s en­rolled in 14 se­lected prac­tices in the re­gion to have free vis­its to their doc­tors.

The prac­tices cho­sen, which have the choice to opt in or out of the scheme, have a high num­ber of Maori and Pa­cific pa­tients.

DHB per­for­mance, in­for­mat­ics and fi­nance man­ager Tim Evans said the hope was young peo­ple would form a re­la­tion­ship with their doc­tors from an early age.

‘‘We think it will im­prove their health out­comes, and in terms of the over­all sys­tem, it means fewer of them turn­ing up to ED to ac­cess free health­care.

‘‘If we are right, and those things ac­tu­ally hap­pen, we are on to a win­ner.’’

Board mem­ber Ngahi­whi To­maoana said it was a good mo­ment for the health board. ’’This is one of those ya­hoo mo­ments ... I am proud of these mo­ments.’’

The Hawke’s Bay pro­gramme is ex­pected to cost $583,235 a year, and will cover about 70 per cent of the 13 to 17-year-olds from Wairoa to Cen­tral Hawke’s Bay.

There are ap­prox­i­mately 11,096 chil­dren in that age group en­rolled in gen­eral prac­tices across the re­gion.

‘‘We looked at the costs of pro­vid­ing free vis­its for all of our 13 to 17-year-olds, but that was a bit too ex­pen­sive to bite off in one chunk,’’ Evans said.

If suc­cess­ful, the DHB hopes even­tu­ally to ex­tend it to all un­der-18s. It would be closely re­viewed through­out 2017 to see if it was work­ing.

‘‘I would hope the ben­e­fits we see from this would see us of­fer­ing this to all prac­tices through­out the re­gion,’’ board chair­man Kevin Atkin­son said.

There are six clin­ics un­der the scheme in Hast­ings.

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