The Salvation Army is to trial a free GP clinic in West Auckland because it says there’s an immediate demand for it.

It is holding the clinic once a week over July at the army’s Waitākere centre.

It is a first for the Salvation Army.

Director of community ministries Jono Bell, said there are many vulnerable people not getting medical attention and are suffering because of it.

He said clients were telling them there were two main reasons stopping them accessing medical care.

“One is lack of transportation but also the cost, especially for adults. One in seven adults, we know through research, are forgoing going to the GP and we see cost as a big prohibitive for people.”

Mr Bell said substandard housing and poor heating often lead to sickness and people do not always get to a doctor when they should.

“Substandard housing, aren’t getting the nutritious food they need due to cost and all of these things have an impact on their health and ongoing effects with education for children and their social well-being as well.”

Mr Bell said the Salvation Army would look closely at how the pilot goes before deciding its next step.

“We are very interested to see how this will go.”

The problem of accessing free medical attention is not isolated to Waitākere, as it’s a nationwide problem, he said.

The GP at the free clinic will be able to see 12 people a day.

Mr Bell said it was not a lot of people.

“We want to respond to those most in need and we will also continue to support people, advocate for them to insure that they do get other services, but this is something we are just trialling and to really take the edge of those in most need,” he said.

Mr Bell said the Salvation Army was hearing from around the country of the need for (free) GP services and people not accessing basic health care.

“This isn’t just isolated to Waitākere.”

He said Waitākere is one of the army’s busiest centres.

“We are hearing from our front-line staff of the need of GP services so we decided with high-demand it is a good centre to start and trial this.”

Mr Bell said the message is that things were not getting easier for people.

“The government is doing some good work, the winter energy payment for example, in trying to alleviate poverty but it is just not enough and it is not necessarily targeting the people that need it most.”

Mr Bell said the trial comes at a cost to the Salvation Army like all of its services.

The Salvation Army relies on public donations to provide these essential services to 120,000 people each year, he said.

NZ Herald

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