Struggling parents are reluctant to utilise free medical consultations for their sick children for fear of being hounded over minor debts.
It’s a situation that is frustrating the hell out of Nelson community nurse, Penny Molar, who now spends far too much of her work time battling to get people the medical care they need.
She works in a community centre so the people she is seeing are usually lower socio-economic with a variety of health issues. As Nelson only has two low-cost GPs who are constantly busy, it is an ongoing battle to get timely medical help.
“I see so many people who simply can’t afford to go to the doctor, so they put it off and put it off, and then they get told they can’t go because they have a debt. Some GPs won’t see you if you owe them more than $40 from previous visits.”
As a result, seriously ill people will be left untreated and even if they are eligible for financial assistance from Work & Income it takes several weeks to get an appointment.
“I’m now seeing mums who are too afraid to take their children to see a doctor for free because they are worried they will be hounded about their debts. So I end up being the one who advocates for them to get even basic help.”
Right now she is fighting to get help for a young woman who is on a methadone programme and dealing with mental health issues and a man who can’t get treatment for a hernia that has caused such swelling that he is reluctant to leave his home because of the constant taunting he receives.
“The thing that really bothers me,’’ says Molar, “is that people even need an advocate such as myself. It shouldn’t even be necessary, adults should be able to get the help they need themselves without having to battle for it.”