Medicos speak out as free sex clinics close in the Wakatipu

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Long-time GP Val Miller says cutbacks and closures of free sexual health clinics are “a major issue” for Queenstown. 

Miller’s Wakatipu Medical Centre is trying to replace lost funding for free consultations for patients aged up to 24 – and charges now also apply at the previously-free Wakatipu Sexual Health & Family Planning Clinic at Queenstown Medical Centre. 

“I think it’s a massive oversight from the Primary Health Organisation not to provide some sort of funding for that care in a place like this,” Miller says. 

Funding was chopped when amalgamation saw the Wakatipu PHO disappear into the regional Southern PHO last year. 

“It means we’re not able to target the things that are particular problems for this area”, Miller says. 

She adds the Wakatipu demographic is different to Southland’s, for example. 

“We’ve got a lot of young people so [sexual health] becomes an issue. They often don’t have the money to go to the doctor when they need to or their priorities are different.” 

QMC chief Shane Zeederburg says his medical centre is subsidising sexual health’s “at-risk group” while “working behind the scenes” on replacing lost funding. 

Schoolchildren are charged $10 while enrolled patients up to age 24 pay $30, he says. 

Zeederburg says if the sexual health clinic remains unfunded, it’s likely the Wakatipu will suffer more unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.