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The Salvation Army opens free medical clinic as winter hits


The Salvation Army is running a temporary medical consultation service from one of its busiest centres this month to make healthcare more accessible to people living in poverty.

The clinic will operate one day a week in The Salvation Army’s Waitakere centre for four weeks in July. The initiative is in collaboration with home-visiting doctor service NZ Home Doctors, which is providing a registered General Practitioner to see patients if required.

Jono Bell, The Salvation Army's National Director of Community Ministries, says that vulnerable people struggle with warmth, shelter and food over the winter period, which can exacerbate or cause health problems.

“Substandard housing and poor heating often lead to sickness and people don’t always get to a doctor when they should.”

The latest Ministry of Health’s Annual Data Explorer found that around one in seven adults (15 per cent) reported not visiting a GP due to cost, and this figure had not changed significantly from 2011/121.

“It’s not only the fees that can be a barrier, but also transport costs to get there. Even with free doctors’ visits for children under 13, if there’s no car, no petrol and no bus money, it’s near impossible for some whānau,” says Jono.

Children from the most disadvantaged communities are twice as likely to end up in hospital for medical conditions and three times more likely to be hospitalised for respiratory conditions compared to those from the most advantaged communities2.

People who visit The Salvation Army for basic needs undergo an initial assessment by trained staff. A consultation with a registered doctor will be offered if required.

“We see this as a real opportunity to reach people with medical help over winter when they come to us for emergency food, basic household items or housing,” says Jono.

The Salvation Army relies heavily on public donations to provide essential services to 120,000 people each year. The organisation is pleading for those more fortunate to dig deep and donate to its Winter Appeal launching today (8 July).

“We provide emergency help and services for long-term transformational change to disadvantaged communities, but we can’t do it alone – we need public support,” says Jono.

The Salvation Army provides food parcels, budgeting advice, social work, youth development, and emergency and transitional housing to New Zealand’s most vulnerable families and individuals.

Specialist services include addictions support, emergency crisis support, reintegration services, senior support and chaplaincy support in courts and prisons.

“We’ve mobilised to provide medical help over winter but it is only a short-term solution. Our other work will not let up in the coming months as people continue to struggle with keeping the house warm and food on the table.

“We humbly ask people to give generously to our Winter Appeal so we can continue to fight poverty in New Zealand,” says Jono.

The Salvation Army Winter Appeal runs from 8 July until the end of the month and people can donate by visiting www.salvationarmy.org.nz/winter.

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