Keeping families in Taieri healthy

On Friday evening I attended the St John Ambulance awards in Dunedin to celebrate some real unsung heroes in our community, who have served between five and 50 years as volunteers for this extraordinary first response service. Congratulations to everyone who received a service medal.

Sadly, in recent years some of the ambulance emergency responses have been to people whose conditions have deteriorated to “urgent” due to difficulties accessing primary healthcare.

Many of this Government’s reforms to the health system — as well as keeping homes warm during winter — are to help people stay well, rather than wait until it’s too late.

The 2023 Winter Plan, led by Te Whatu Ora, will make it easier for New Zealanders and their families to get care early, and in many cases closer to home.

This will help to make sure that small issues don’t become big problems requiring hospitalisation, and people can hopefully get better quicker.

One of the new initiatives that I know will make a real difference for many families in South Dunedin and Clutha is free access to pharmacy consultations and paracetamol for children and Community Services Card holders.

Other initiatives include "hospital in the home" services, increased access to radiology services in the community, and community rapid response tools to protect those most vulnerable. You will also be able to see your pharmacist for free help with minor ailments, saving you a trip to the GP.

Our Winter Plan utilises the work we’ve done since 2017 to rebuild New Zealand’s health system following years of neglect.

This includes delivering more nurses and doctors, upgrading hospitals and health centres across the country, and boosting Pharmac’s funding so more people can access life-saving medicines.

Also, thanks to our reforms, the health system is now co-ordinated at a national level. This means that resources can be shared across health facilities within a region, and communities like ours will be better served.

Having a warm home is an essential part of preventing respiratory illnesses through the winter season and lowers the risk of other health issues.

To reduce the chance of people getting unwell, we’re helping over a million New Zealanders, including many here in Taieri, with the cost of heating their home through winter.

The Winter Energy Payment started again on May 1 and will run through until October 1.

Those eligible for the payment – seniors, veterans, and people on benefits – will receive this boost automatically. Single people with no dependent children will receive an extra $20.46 per week while couples and people with children will receive an extra $31.82 per week.

As global inflation drives up prices around the world, we’re focused on bread and butter issues like tackling the cost of living.

I know this support, alongside our recent April 1 income boosts, will help many families make ends meet and stay healthy over the winter months.