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New medical centre opening

Donna Campbell, left, Trish Wilkinson, and Josie Savage of First Health and Wellness Centre. PHOTOS/ALEYNA MARTINEZ

Centre aims to take pressure off ED

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First Health and Wellness Centre is a new and permanent urgent care medical service that will do home visits for Wairarapa residents from 5pm to 9pm – without the after-hours fee.

The centre’s First St premises.

It will open on Monday September 21, next to Dish Cafe in the Lansdowne Village.

Created by Trish Wilkinson, the concept took three years to realise. Opening hours would initially be 5pm-9pm and would increase with demand.

Wilkinson had achieved the long-awaited opening by collecting donations of money or medical equipment from the public. She said any doubt she received along the way only made her work harder.

One of Wilkinson’s goals was to have a late-night service that could take pressure off Wairarapa Hospital’s emergency department and prevent patients having to wait for sometimes up to six hours or more to see a doctor.

New patients were not expected to register or enrol if they needed a doctor, Wilkinson said. The service is designed to be a drop-in clinic

“We don’t want to do diabetes and long-term conditions, this is ACC stuff,” she said.

Wilkinson who had worked as a locum nurse until a year ago said the idea for the clinic was sparked after friends and family made it clear to her that getting home from work and then going to a doctor’s appointment after 5pm was either not affordable or came with unrealistic wait times.

Donna Campbell, the centre’s registered nurse said she had experienced some GP wait times in Wairarapa to be as long as three weeks.

Other patients she knew found they could not afford after-hours clinic fees which averaged $85 a visit.

Campbell had volunteered her time, believing in Wilkinson’s vision to open an inclusive clinic that could offer “affordable and accessible healthcare for all”.

She even got her friends in “off the street” to wash the walls and floors in preparation for the opening of the premises, Wilkinson said.

Trustee member and veterinary doctor Heidi Ward-McGrath said watching Wilkinson for the past two years had been a display of pure “tenacity”.

“Often when you set something up and somebody sees that it’s working then the funding will come,” Ward-McGrath said.

“People are very conservative, but they didn’t count on the strength of the local rural community.”

First Health and Wellness Centre still needs an ECG machine, vinyl flooring for the consultation room, leather couches for the waiting room and a TV to entertain those waiting.

The opening of the centre comes at a time when Whaiora, one of Wairarapa’s medical centres, has closed its books to new enrolments.

Other medical centres are taking limited enrolments because there are not enough doctors to handle the swelling number of patients.

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