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Poverty Watchdog Calls For After-Hours Doctor Visit Funding

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Poverty Watchdog Calls For After-Hours Doctor Visit Funding

Wellington, Dec 1 NZPA - The cost of childrens' after-hours doctor visits has been identified as a significant healthcare gap and a child poverty watchdog is calling for more government funding.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) said today a new study highlighted the importance of cost as a barrier to healthcare and the key role it played in New Zealand's poor child health statistics.

The paper has been published in the Journal of Primary Health Care and co-author Dr Nikki Turner says more funding must be provided for after-hours and weekend visits for children under six.

"While most doctors' practices offer free visits during work hours, visits at other times are largely not funded and this is a significant gap in children's healthcare," she said.

"Weekends in particular need greater attention, as can be seen with the number of children turning up for treatment at hospital accident and emergency departments."

Dr Turner's paper notes that a 2009 OECD report ranked New Zealand lowest of 29 countries for child health and says better access to doctors would be an important step in reversing the situation.

"One in five New Zealand children live in poverty and New Zealand's rates of preventable disease in this group are among the highest in the developed world," she said.

"We need improved funding for children's primary healthcare and to find more innovative ways to ensure the funding gets to where the need is greatest."

Health Minister Tony Ryall told NZPA there were problems around accessing after-hours primary care which had existed for years.

"District Health Boards are working to encourage extended after-hours care by GPs, and in emergencies there are emergency departments available in public hospitals," he said.

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