Free healthcare is being offered to under-24s in Hawke's Bay, but there is a catch.
The provision of free healthcare to under-24s is a first for the region and a change from a past policy offering free healthcare for under-18s through selected GPs.
Free GP visits, prescriptions and access to a wide range of health services are part of the new Te Kahui Waiora collective.
However, some youth may have to switch doctors to access the free service, which is being offered at five locations in the region.
- Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga Trust (Hastings and Central Hawke's Bay)
- Te Kupenga Hauora Ahuriri (Napier)
- Roopu a Iwi Trust (Napier)
- Kahungunu Executive (Wairoa)
Some GPs say the DHB has forced them to now charge under-18s for visits.
Hastings Health Centre has advised patients that 14 to 17 years of funding from the DHB has ceased, and fees will now be $30 or $13 with a Community Services Card.
"We regretfully inform you that the DHB has ceased funding GP visits for 14- to 17-year-olds.
''We realise that this will have a significant impact on young people and their families. Unfortunately, the decision sits with the DHB and is out of our control,'' a statement on the centre's website says.
However, the DHB says it is up to the GP practices whether to charge.
Emma Foster, executive director of planning and funding, says "this is a business decision that general practices make independently and not a decision of the HBDHB.
"Some GPs choose not to charge.''
The change comes after regular reviews of the DHB's policy of providing free healthcare for under-18s through selected GPs, which commenced in 2016.
There was initial demand from Māori and Pasifika patients in areas of low deprivation, and the policy was extended to other practices.
However, Foster says demand has decreased, but the need for a ''co-design of health services, to better meet the growing needs of our rangatahi Māori and Pasifika population'', was identified.
"As a result, the DHB made the decision to extend free healthcare to Hawke's Bay rangatahi up to the age of 24 at selected practices to better meet these needs," Foster says.
The Te Kahui Waiora collective has a kaupapa Māori foundation and is in a transitional period, with full services operational by July 1.
Foster says general practices had been well informed about the funding review and the reasoning behind the changes, and given information to pass on to their patients.
"All General Practices were notified in October 2021 that the existing under-18s funding would be ending .... and repurposed into new Hawke's Bay rangatahi services.''
Te Kahui Waiora will offer:
- Free access to services that provide sexual health, mental health and addictions and basic youth healthcare and treatment.
- Free access to a General Practitioner or Nurse Practitioner as required by rangatahi.
Free prescriptions for rangatahi.
Tukituki MP Anna Lorck - a former elected DHB member - says it is important that young people can access services without cost being a barrier.
"The Hawke's Bay DHB has seen how its pilot programme worked, assessed uptake and looked at improvements. This trial was a first in New Zealand.
"It is also fantastic to see a wide range of local GPs continuing in their own capacity to provide a free service for teenagers and young adults."