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Cost of after-hours medical care too much for many Kiwis

Cost of after-hours medical care still too much for many Kiwis

The announcement of a new model for after-hours medical services in Auckland will address some issues for those in the city but it still leaves inconsistencies in accessibility and affordability, says Labour's Health spokesperson Grant Robertson.

"The cost of getting after-hours medical treatment has become increasingly out of reach for many New Zealanders.

"Today's announcement will reduce some of that cost for some people in Auckland. But it will leave other families in the city on moderate incomes facing charges of around $100 for an after-hours consultation. That is simply unaffordable for many who are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living. Those people will still either head to already full emergency departments or worse will not seek treatment.

"As for the rest of the country, they will be rightly asking, what about us?

"Costs for after-hours services are extremely high in cities and regions outside of Auckland, including for children and elderly. The Government has not taken any action to address this. Rather it has left DHBs with budgets that have not kept up with the increased costs they are facing.

"Earlier this year, the Public Health Advisory Committee of the Waitemata DHB expressed concern that the funding for the Auckland project would not be sufficient to provide the range of services needed.

"It is not clear from today's announcement if this issue has been resolved. Also the Government has not provided additional funding to the DHBs involved which means the money will have to be taken from elsewhere. The DHBs need to be upfront about which other services will lose funding as a result."

The proposal also appears to continue inconsistencies in the level of service and cost in different parts of Auckland, said Grant Robertson.

"For example, while the presence of four 24 hour clinics is good, there will not be a 24 hour clinic in South Auckland - an area that would seem to be one of the most likely to need such a service. And while it is good that some of the clinics will see under six year olds for free after-hours, others will not. That will cause confusion and inequities.

"After a number of delays, it is good that this initiative has finally been agreed, and that some Aucklanders will be able to access services at a lower cost. But for many Kiwis, the high cost of after-hours care will continue to be a problem.

"Labour will release its health policy in the coming months. We believe that the issue of accessible and affordable after-hours care is one that faces the whole country. It needs a solution that will ensure families can get care easily, at a price they can afford, wherever they live in New Zealand," said Grant Robertson.

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