GP or groceries - choice no mother wants to make

By Martin Johnston

Michelle Gordon with three of her four children Jessica, 14, Caitlyn, 8, and Caleb, 8, at their Naenae home. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Michelle Gordon with three of her four children Jessica, 14, Caitlyn, 8, and Caleb, 8, at their Naenae home. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Mother of four Michelle Gordon delayed taking her teenage daughter to the doctor for a fortnight as she was unsure how badly she needed help, and because it costs $25.

She now regrets the wait. Jessica, 14, had a chest infection and had been sick for three weeks before seeing the doctor, who prescribed antibiotics.

"We delayed and delayed, thinking she was maybe getting better, then she went downhill and we really needed to go to the doctor," says Ms Gordon, whose income is the sole parent benefit.

Jessica is almost fully recovered, although she still has a cough. She was off school for nearly three weeks and her mother says the absence would almost certainly have been shorter had the medical care started sooner. It's a dilemma she faces all the time trying to juggle GP and prescription fees on a benefit.

When Jessica went to the doctor, 15-year-old brother Jordan had to go too.

With a prescription for each, the GP and pharmacy charges cost their mother $60.

Ms Gordon thinks the $25 GP fees for children aged 6 to 17 are too high for her area - Naenae in Wellington's Lower Hutt, among the poorest decile of localities in the country.

She has set up fortnightly transfers from her bank account of $10 to the medical centre and also to her local pharmacy because her family are such high users of health services, and planning ahead is the only way she can cope financially.

"If I didn't have the automatic payments set up, I'd be screwed. It would be very difficult to figure out how to pay for things like that. We struggle with groceries, let alone adding other expenses on top of that."

"At times I have had to up [the pharmacy payment] because my son's medication is so expensive. At one stage it was about $100 a month."

The Government waives the prescription charge for the rest of the year once a family has purchased 20 items at the standard $5 charge for anyone aged 6 or older, although for younger children it's year-round.

Ms Gordon pays rent of $360 a week. She receives income of about $700 including the accommodation supplement and full or partial disability allowances for herself (for fibromyalgia), Jordan (Crohn's disease) and one of her 8-year-old twins, Caleb (for asthma medication).

- NZ Herald

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