$89 a child after hours

Parents pay up to $89 for after-hours medical appointments for children aged 6-17 in some parts of New Zealand, delegates heard yesterday.

University of Auckland medical student Cheyaanthan Haran presented findings of a survey conducted with a fellow medical student in which the pair looked at fees charged in 280 GP practices across the country's 20 district health boards.

The study recommended extending free healthcare to this age group. At present, children under 6 are funded by the Government for free visits.

''These costs are high for families on low incomes and may delay the seeking of timely treatment.''

An unexpected finding was that 7% of practices did not charge children aged 6-17 for visits in normal hours, and 6% did not charge them for after-hours visits.

The average fee in the 280 practices was $24 for normal hours visits, and $44 for after-hours. Fees ranged up to $60 for normal hours, and up to $89 for after-hours.

Responding to the study findings, Emeritus Prof John Werry, of Auckland, said there were very large price variations in Auckland, and it was a significant problem.

He held the first Labour government responsible for failing to build a free primary healthcare system when it set up the health service in the late 1930s.

Prof Werry told the Otago Daily Times the situation contributed to emergency department overloading.

 

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