Under 18? It’s free
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.