Hundreds of low-income people unable to afford to go to the doctors are seeking medical help from a free clinic each month.

Based in Rotorua's Work and Income offices, nurses at the Convenient Care Clinic see anywhere between 15 and 25 people daily (500-700 monthly).

The clinic, set up as part of Community Link in January 2010 on a two-year pilot under the umbrella of Korowai Aroha, offers services to anyone needing assistance, not just beneficiaries or low-income earners. But they don't write prescriptions or give out medical certificates.

Head nurse Deena Mear said many people being seen avoided going to the doctors because they couldn't afford medical help.


"A fair number of them aren't even registered with a doctor ... we see a lot of homeless people," she said.

About 15 people a month were referred to Rotorua Hospital, Mrs Mear said.

"They were just getting sicker and sicker," she said.

Poorer people were struggling to get the medical help they needed, with mild conditions left until they became serious medical issues, babies left un-immunised and contagious illnesses left to spread, Mrs Mear said.

Being on site at Work and Income has helped save at least one young man who suffered an angina attack while attending a work seminar.

"We do a lot of opportunistic work," she said.

The nurses offer quit-smoking help, vaccinations, infection treatment, dressing of minor wounds, blood pressure and weight checks as well as pregnancy and STI treatments along with cervical smears, health checks and education.

Many people seeking medical help suffer with impetigo - which is associated with overcrowding - indicating people in the community were struggling to cope financially, Mrs Mear said.


Nurse Kaye Shaw said the demand on services showed there was a real need for a free medical service for needy people.

Rotorua GP Des Epp said there were several free medical services in Rotorua funded by Health Rotorua including the Convenient Care Clinic and outreach clinics in Ford Rd and at Ngongotaha.

However, a service which received national recognition after providing free treatment for cellulitis, severe pneumonia and deep-vein thrombosis, avoiding expensive hospital treatments, had been pulled, Dr Epp said.

Health Rotorua Primary Health Organisations (PHO) needed to be involved in the planning stages of District Health Board primary health policy so the needs and wants of the community were represented, Dr Epp said.

"As you can see ... there are many free services which must be funded to continue," he said.

"Where they are not free they must be funded properly to continue to make them some of the cheapest in the country for the people of Rotorua. People have a right to expect to be well."