Kaitaia GP plans to open own clinic

By Peter de Graaf

High-profile Kaitaia GP Lance O'Sullivan is planning to open his own clinic by the end of the year.

Dr O'Sullivan gained national attention earlier this year for raising awareness of poverty and poor housing in the Far North, and their effects on Maori health.

He also helped persuade the Government to fund a campaign against life-threatening rheumatic fever in the Far North. However, he fell out with his employers at Te Hauora o Te Hiku o Te Ika - reportedly for insisting on treating patients who could not pay - and resigned in June. His contract expired on August 10.

Dr O'Sullivan told the Advocate this week he and his wife, a registered nurse, were planning to open a GP clinic in Kaitaia by year's end.

"I want to put my effort into the things I've been talking about for the past 18 months, such as increasing access to health care for vulnerable members of our community," he said.

He still had to "jump through a few hoops" and get clearance from the district health board and the Tai Tokerau PHO, but hoped that would be a formality in a high-needs area.

Dr O'Sullivan said he was not concerned about being inundated with patients who could not pay.

If anything, he was hoping to prove there were ways of serving high-needs patients without going broke.

If health care could be made more accessible, the spin-offs - such as reduced hospital admissions, better health outcomes and reduced inequalities - would be huge.

Meanwhile, Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa, the Maori Medical Practitioners Association, will hold its annual conference at Ahipara on September 1, thanks to an impassioned plea by Dr O'Sullivan at last year's gathering. It will be the first time in 15 years the group has met north of Auckland.

- Northern Advocate

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