Prominent health advocate Dr Lance O'Sullivan has announced a bold move to introduce drive-through medical centres throughout New Zealand. Similar to a good takeaway, the clinics will be open to midnight, in a move to make healthcare more accessible for the busy, the shy and the poor. Rotorua Daily Post journalist Kelly Makiha talks to O'Sullivan about his plans, what he hopes to achieve, who will benefit and why he has chosen Rotorua as his first clinic. O'Sullivan also reveals where in Rotorua he plans to put his first clinic.
A drive-through medical centre open until midnight will be in Rotorua by November.
Dr Lance O'Sullivan has announced hundreds of drive-through mobile medical clinics are planned by 2020 in an ambitious bid to make healthcare "as accessible as Uber".
O'Sullivan, who has previously been named New Zealand of the Year and is the founder of the Moko Foundation, came up with the idea just two weeks ago.
Since then he has travelled to China to buy his first clinic, which will be brought to Rotorua and opened by November.
O'Sullivan told the Rotorua Daily Post he hoped Rotorua's clinic would be near the Kmart carpark at Trade Central.
He announced his plans on Monday night at an AUT public lecture in Auckland, where he is the Māori entrepreneur in residence.
He described the plan as a "game-changer" that was not only a New Zealand first but a world first.
He hopes to have 200 clinics throughout the country by 2020.
He initially said Rotorua's clinic would open by September but realistically said it would be November, followed by Kaitaia and Northcote.
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Rotorua's clinic would be finished in China ready for shipping in eight weeks, he said.
"It's in the shape of a 40ft (12m) shipping container ... Basically it goes on a truck and you drop it where you want it to go."
He said people could either drive up to the windows and order what they needed, including a repeat prescription or get their blood pressure checked, or park and go into the clinic for an examination.
He said the main advantage would be opening until midnight, allow anyone to access healthcare at all times.
"You think of a worker who finishes at 5pm, goes home and has dinner. They can then go to the clinic later at night when they probably wouldn't have bothered before."
He was yet to do costings but given the low overheads he was confident it would be the cheapest doctors' visits in the country.
He said it would work similar to a normal general practice where clients could register but would also be open to non-registered people for a slightly higher fee.
O'Sullivan said ideally in Rotorua he would like it to be at the Kmart carpark, owned by Pukeroa Oruawhata.
He said he was yet to have a conversation with the owners.
Pukeroa Oruawhata general manager Peter Faulkner said he would be keen to talk with O'Sullivan to understand his requirements.
He said there were certain guidelines with having Kmart at the Trade Central site, including the parking area and sight lines from the road.
"We are happy to have a chat to him to hear the details as this is literally hot off the press."
Meanwhile, O'Sullivan said his strong links to Rotorua was the reason he chose to open here first.
"I started my career in Rotorua, my family and children whakapapa to Rotorua and it helped form me to be the person I am today as a clinician."
He said he couldn't divulge how much the initiative would cost him, but was confident it was a worthwhile investment.
"We are trying something exciting and new and I believe it will work. The big issue affecting people is access."
Bay of Plenty medical officer of health Dr Phil Shoemack said it was an initiative worthwhile considering.
"I am totally supportive of the idea of improving access."
Love Soup founder Gina Peiffer said the new clinic could help the city's homeless.
"It's more a cost factor for our streeties and yes accessibility as well. We would definitely encourage our people to go and check it out because many have health issues that they tend to ignore."