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Christchurch's 198 Youth Health Centre to Close

Christchurch's 198 Youth Health Centre to Close its Doors as Management Fails to Implement Directives from CDHB

Christchurch’s 198 Youth Health Centre (the Centre), which was established in 1995 and has delivered holistic health services to people between the ages of 10 to 25 years ever since, will be closing on 30 April due to a lack of funding.

Dr Sue Bagshaw, senior doctor and founder of the Centre, says that in recent years there has been no cost of living increase in the Centre’s funding, which has meant an effective cut in income. In the last year, there has been a change in the way funding has been delivered, which has also led to a decrease in running costs.

In the 08/09 financial year, the income the Centre received from the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) was $553,087. In the 09/10 financial year, the money forecasted until the end of June was $461,114.

“On 11 December 2009, I went to the CDHB Board meeting to inform the Board that without a funding increase the Youth Health Centre would have to close on 30 April to avoid bankruptcy. In spite of a directive from the governance arm of the CDHB, management was unwilling to commit to the extra funding that would enable the Centre to pay its bills. On 2 March, the Youth Health Centre Trust Board met to decide whether it was able to continue in business. A letter was received from the CDHB management an hour before the meeting, again reiterating that we could have no more than the 009/10 funding levels. The result is that the Centre can no longer be kept open. The Centre has tried to supplement its Government funding in many different ways but has not been able to meet the shortfall,” explains Dr Bagshaw.

Closure of the Centre will leave many young people without services. “Unless patients are in the top three per cent severity, they will not be able to access mental health care or access alcohol and drug services. Research shows that 20 per cent of young people suffer from depression; 20 to 30 per cent have binge drinking problems,” says Dr Bagshaw.

The Centre has 7,000 visits from young people a year during the 30 hours a week it is open, and turns away between five and ten people a day for lack of resources.

“The Centre receives at least one phone call every day from a distraught parent who could not find help elsewhere for their young person. The vast majority of young people who attend have very low incomes. They are either at school or in training, have no job or are in casual labour or a very low paid job. All of those who have left school cannot afford to see a family doctor. Those at school may have access to a family doctor but may not choose to do so because of fears around confidentiality,” says Dr Bagshaw.

The decision to close has been a very difficult one for those involved in the Centre. a very hard one indeed. It comes hard on the heels of a National Evaluation of Youth Community Health Centres or One Stop Shops, which praised the Centres for being cost effective and meeting the needs of a very high risk group of young people.

“Most of the other health centres around the country were modelled on the Centre in Christchurch. If other District Health Boards take the same stance as the CDHB then all the other Youth One Stop Shop Community Health Centres will be at risk of closure.

Failure to invest in the health and well being of this vulnerable group of young people will inevitably lead to very serious health and social problems in the near future,” concludes Dr Bagshaw.


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