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Healthcare hard to reach

Graeme Burnard’s recent letter to the editor [Times-Age April 6] about his difficulties getting a GP visit resonated with me.

Burnard said many patients go to ED because they can’t get an appointment with their GP.

My recent first experience trying to get healthcare in Masterton was a great example of how hard it is, even more so for me because I don’t have a GP in the first place.

About a month ago, I injured my toe.

I wasn’t enrolled with any GP, and I’d heard that getting a GP was very difficult, so I ignored it, soaked it in Dettol, and put on some Savlon.

Not knowing a lot about healthcare, my first reaction was that if it’s serious [broken bone, deadly infection, hit by a car etc.], you go to hospital, and if it’s minor [injured toe, sore ear, strange red patch etc.], then you go to a GP.

If you don’t have a GP, I knew you could go to after hours, but I presumed that would be very expensive.

I called all the GPs in town, asking if I could join or come in as a casual patient.

They all said no, so I thought I’d tough it out.

Over the next couple of weeks, my toe got worse; I could hardly walk and had to wear sandals.

I stopped walking to work.

I confessed to my colleagues about my predicament, who suggested I go to a nurse clinic rather than a GP, so I went right away.

By this point, I’d been mostly immobile for a month.

It cost $50 for the nurse to put a bandage on it, and then she told me to come back the next day for another dressing.

The bandage was on so tight I took the next day off work, barely able to leave bed.

I went back to the nurse, who told me the toe was probably infected and told me I could use an internet GP service to get antibiotics [maybe she could have told me that the first time?]

I see the virtual GP, another $50, who doesn’t even look at my foot, just rushes through the consultation in 12 minutes, tells me it’s probably infected, and to take penicillin for a week.

I finished my course of penicillin yesterday; my foot is healing, and I’m back in shoes and slightly more capable of running around Wairarapa with a notepad and a camera.

As a kid, I went to the clinic my mum was enrolled at, and I went to student health at university.

Moving to Masterton seven months ago, I never thought to enrol at a health clinic because I didn’t have any health needs at the time.

Now I’m on the waiting list for Masterton Medical and Kuripuni, so hopefully, I’ll be enrolled before I need the doctor again.

After all this, I can see that getting healthcare in this town is not easy.

Whaiora won’t even take patients on the waiting list; they’re the cheapest.

You would think it should be easy to go to the doctor; healthcare is supposed to be free in New Zealand, but it’s not that easy; in Wairarapa, healthcare has some barriers.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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