A misleading story

Stuff reports:

Seeing a doctor is becoming a luxury item as housing costs take a toll on family budgets, Christchurch social agencies say.

“We have a number of families who don’t even take their children to the GP until they get really sick and often that’s because they’ve got debts and doctors sometimes won’t see a family until they have cleared previous debts,” Christchurch Methodist Mission executive director Jill Hawkey said.

I don’t know of any GP that will refuse to see a child because the family owe them money. They may ask the parents to arrange to pay their debts, but they won’t refuse to see a child.

One family with an outstanding bill of $30 were threatened by debt collectors with fees in excess of $1000 unless they paid up, she said.

That sounds preposterous, and I doubt it.

Nine practices in Canterbury operate under the Government’s Very Low Cost Access (VLCA) scheme and 298 Youth Services provides free GP visits for 10-24-year-olds.

It is worth remembering that taxpayers not subsidise free GP visits for children up to the age of 13.

This story is based on anecdotes and claims by an NGO. It would be a better story if it referenced actual data, such as the annual NZ Health Survey by the Ministry of Health. The latest survey finds:

  • children who did not visit a GP due to cost in the last year decreased from 6.3% to 5.2%
  • children who did not visit an after hours service due to cost decreased from 4.5% to 3.6%

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be an article on the claims that some families can’t afford primary healthcare. What I’m saying is that the article just repeated claims that had no substance, and didn’t seek out any data that contradicts that.

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