Clinics scramble to tell patients about free GP visit offer

Source: 1News

Free GP visits are on offer at South Auckland clinics over the weekend, but some say the offer should be extended to reduce the load on emergency departments.

Counties Manukau DHB is funding the initiative for two weekends but some clinic staff told 1News that they were only told about the free visits offer late on Friday,

The new initiative is designed to help address a surge in winter illnesses.

DHBs across Auckland have said that the number of influenza cases has now overtaken the number of Covid-19 infections as the cause of respiratory-related hospitalisations.

The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre's Dr Anthony Jordan said there was increasing pressure on the city's health system.

READ MORE; Overrun Middlemore Hospital ED sees patients diverted in Auckland

"The numbers of people falling unwell with viral illness will continue to climb which, as those numbers climb, will put more pressure on the system."

This week, a woman died after leaving Middlemore Hospital's emergency department because of long waiting times. An investigation is now underway into the incident.

Weymouth Medical Centre's Paea Valoa said she expected the community to take up the offer - if they knew about it.

"I don't think the community knows about this new initiative," she said. "If they did know, they would be in here."

"From 9am… we've been doing re-calls to get our patients in, who are needing to be seen by the GP, but we really haven't had enough time."

Valoa and her colleagues had been calling patients to encourage them to take up the offer. As well as free GP visits, kids can get free pain relief medication from selected pharmacies in South Auckland.

Counties Manukau DHB said it was too early to know if the initiative was working.

But there were only positive reviews from those turning up that spoke to 1News.

"It's pretty good because I couldn't afford to come to the doctors today... and hearing that it's free made me come in today," one patient said.