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Wednesday, 20 March 2019 11:04 pm

Petone patients rally against loss of their clinic

Sep 3rd, 2013 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, News, Top Picture


FAMILY STRUGGLE: Maxine Huirama with nieces Zahkayla Taipeti, left, and Amelia Huirama, right

THERE IS strong resistance from Petone patients to a plan that will close their medical centre for the sake of one large clinic in Pomare.

Hutt Union and Community Health Services (HUCHS) surveyed Petone patients about how a merging of clinics might affect them and their families, and what could be done to help them if the clinic were to close.

Most patients surveyed are against the plan, which would involve them travelling to Pomare.

Cherie Hona, a single mother in the area, says travelling that far would be difficult for most in the community.

“If they were to move it all the way to [Pomare], how are all the low-incomers going to get there?

“They’d rather just sit here and pretty much die,” Ms Hona says.

Funding cuts are behind the proposal.  HUCHS has lost about $400,000 in contracts and funding during the past three years, according to its annual report.

“It’s DHB funding that’s been lost mostly,” HUCHS service manager Sally Nicholl says.

“Most of the funding got cut two or three years ago. The DHB (District Health Board) was expecting a deficit and had to look at where to cut funding.”

About 300 people filled out the survey. Reactions to the plan have left HUCHS with the option of merging the clinics as a last resort only.

“Because of the response, we found, as the board, that we needed to think of ways to be able to stay open,” says Mere Te Paki, community health worker at the Petone clinic.

Proposals of how HUCHS could help the community if the merger went ahead include chartering buses to transport patients to the Pomare site, but the board is still in the early stages of finding alternative options.

Mrs Te Paki is well aware of the importance of the clinic in the community.

“At the end of the day, HUCHS does not want to close here,” she says.

“Some practices, their fees are quite high, and for low-income families, you have to weigh up what your priorities are – roof over your head, food in the cupboards, health. And the reality is, for most, health actually comes down the ladder.”

Recruiting staff has been difficult, Ms Te Paki says, as the lack of funding makes it harder to offer doctors the kind of money they may receive elsewhere.

If the Petone clinic has to close, she says, it would be done in stages.

The clinic, which has been open for 21 years, has enough funds to run until December, when its situation will be re-evaluated.

Petone single mother Caseylee Huirama says she would be heartbroken to lose the clinic.

“I’m there every week for my asthma. And my kids are always sick. It would be really devastating if they were to go,” Ms Huirama says.

Community support group Te Huinga o Te Whanau works with the clinic. Ms Huirama says the group has built up a family community over the years.

“We know them that well, they know everything about us.”

The clinic, at the Eastbourne end of Jackson Street, is situated in a low socio-economic area and is known by some as ‘the Bronx’.

Ms Huirama’s sister, Maxine, says, “It’s been a big part of my life since it first got there, for my whole family.  I’m born and bred in ‘the Bronx’, they’re a house away from me. We really need them.”


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