Free GP service for needy breaking even

Dunedin's charity health clinic, Servants Health Centre, is close to "breaking even" four months after opening, despite helping people free of charge, says Dr John Arnold.

Servants Health Centre, on the corner of Princes St and Moray Pl, is staffed by part-time GPs, nurses, counsellors, and receptionists, providing their services free.

Dr Arnold said the centre was $500 short of its $3000 running cost each month.

The centre received a government health subsidy for each patient and 60-70 people a week used the service.

The centre was guided by Christianity; volunteers started the day with a short prayer, but not all were Christian.

The centre needed volunteers to offer a GP service on Mondays.

Dr Arnold, a South Dunedin GP for 20 years, had been surprised by the people using the service.

The typical user was aged 20-40, with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, and mental health issues.

A few patients were fresh from prison, had no fixed doctor, and needed a prescription quickly.

Others simply had chaotic, difficult and stressful lives.

"Sometimes when you hear about their past life there's been terrible things happen to them ... our view is that God loves these people and does not want this rubbish to be affecting their lives."

Acute dental issues were common, and one GP took a particular interest in helping people find appropriate and free help.

The service had advised a few people to go to a regular medical practice when it was clear they could afford to pay.

A few patients liked the Christian ethos but did not need a charity service.

Dr Arnold said there were regular GP practices in Dunedin where patients could find Christian doctors. eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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