A friend damaged his heel a few weeks ago. Walking on grass in Bay View in bare feet, since shoes were uncomfortable, he later sliced open a toe on some glass. He only realised the level of damage when he walked across a newly poured drive leaving crimson blotches behind. He tells what happened then in his own words.‘I rang the hospital in Hastings , thinking I’d go to Accident and Emergency there, since the bleeding still hadn’t stopped and one jandal was awash.
I was put through to a nurse in A and E, and told her the story. She told me that I shouldn’t go out; that Wellesley Road was the place I should be heading to, and that I’d find all the help I’d need right there. I queried costs, but that was sidestepped with comment to the effect that the same services would be offering there, and she’d already referred a number of people that very day to their services.
So I drove down to Wellesley Road and squelched in with the jandal by this time firmly stuck to my foot and “Ew yuk!” from a couple of schoolgirls outside ringing in my ears.
“Hello. Can I help?”
“A and E in Hastings have told me to come here. I’ve sliced my toe open.”
“Can I have your name please?” (Got to get the priorities right)
“Before I’m entered into the system, will I be charged?”
“Ah, yes. There is a $28 surcharge.”
“I’ve just been on the phone to Hastings A and E and they gave me a different impression…there’s no charge there of course?” (When hope dies, so do you.)
“Well we’re not an A and E clinic. This is a private doctors’ medical centre. But you don’t have to pay now, we can send you the account. We can get a doctor to look at it.”
“No thanks. If I took advantage of the offer I wouldn’t be paying now or later.”
I squelched out, maliciously hoping that I’d left something of myself behind.
After I’d stabilised the situation with water, disinfectant, toilet paper, paper tape, a shoe lace, and put myself on a course of miscellaneous anti-biotic remnants, I rang around to check this ACC surcharge situation out.
The Wellesley Road City Medical clinic, helped as it seems to be by on-referrals from A and E Hastings, has the highest charges of all… $28 working hours, boosted to $33 outside those hours and across weekends. If my memory serves me right there is also a further possible charge for dressing materials.
The Taradale Medical Centre with eight doctors is breathing down City Medical’s neck with a $30 surcharge.
Carlyle Medical Centre with five doctors has a $25 surcharge, as does Central Medical with three doctors.
Totara Health, in Flaxmere and Nelson Street Hastings , staffed by ten doctors, has a $20 surcharge, as does the Hastings Health Centre.
Shakespeare Road Medical, with two doctors has an $18 surcharge, Te Mata Peak Practice, with five doctors and in a wealthy area, charges $18, and Maraenui Medical, with three doctors, sits on $16.
Tamatea Medical Centre, with five doctors, doesn’t have a set surcharge. Each doctor has their own, ranging from $20, through $10, to $zero. Interestingly, this Medical Centre has low prescription charges too.
Hauora Heretaunga, with three doctors, has no surcharge at all. I asked the practice manager why not. She told me that with ACC paying $35.88 per patient, with a dressing allowance of $33.49, adding up to $69.37, they didn’t feel that a surcharge was justified. Wow!
These are the only ones I rang, and of course there are significant practices I haven’t asked. Clearly it’s “Thanks very much for the ACC payment. Now, having been paid by the taxpayer, how much more can we milk the injured taxpayer?” Winston Peters should have been a doctor, not a lawyer.’
My friend noted these charges show how private/public partnerships work in practice. ‘Socialism for the private professionals, not the public patients’, he called it.
‘Without an accessible 24/7 public accident and emergency station here we simply do not have the most basic of public health fundamentals on offer in Napier any more. The public health services that really matter have gone.’
How could one argue?
And what, this election year, are we going to do about it?