Emergency health staff are being reminded about its patient taxi voucher policy after a woman forked out $62 for an Uber to get home after being treated at Christchurch Hospital.
The contagious RSV patient had to spend the sum on an Uber to reach her Pegasus home after being initially taken to the central-city hospital in an ambulance.
Te Whatu Ora Health NZ has confirmed the initiative is still ongoing and free taxis are provided to residents in “specific circumstances”.
The Waimakiriri is still two years away from an after-hours clinic which is set to open in 2025.
Back in 2017, the then Canterbury District Health Board made the decision to provide any residents in the Waimakiriri discharged from Christchurch Hospital, who can’t get home, with a free taxi ride.
“And quite rightly,” said the district’s MP Matt Doocey.
“If you leave the hospital at 2am, and you’ve got nobody to pick you up, you’re given a taxi voucher to get home safely.”
But as Pegasus local Christine discovered, hospital staff appeared to be unaware of the initiative and twice needed to take matters into her own hands.
The woman was admitted to Christchurch Hospital at the end of May with a cough that turned out to be a case of RSV. She was highly contagious but it was decided she was best to recover at home.
“I asked for a taxi to assist and [staff] said ‘Oh, no we don’t give those out’, so I had to find my own way home,” she said.
“My friend put her mask on, got in her car from Pegasus and got me to bring me home.”
Last week, she was back in hospital - this time taken by ambulance from her home as her condition has worsened. After a day in the RSV ward the decision was made for her to again be discharged and recover at home.
“I again asked the doctors team for a taxi chit to get home. They said to ask the nurses and when I asked them they said they didn’t do that.”
Christine spent $62 on an Uber to reach her home.
“I feel pretty sucky,” she said.
“The same nurse that saw me the second time had said ‘you were in the ED’ and I said I had been, when I mentioned the taxi chit he said ‘nah, we don’t do them - it’s up to the patients to make their way home’.”
The Waimakiriri is still two years away from an after-hours clinic that’s set to open in 2025. Photo / Supplied
This news disappointed Doocey, who blamed the centralisation of the district health boards into one governing health body, for promised initiatives not reaching local medical centres.
He said his fear was local communities weren’t seeing commitments made by health boards honoured since the health reform.
“Our experience is since the Canterbury District Health Board’s disestablishment, promises have not been honoured in our region,” he said.
“It’s a good example of people travelling long distances, in the middle of the night to an Emergency Department, there’s no alternative way to get home, so these residents ask ‘why don’t we get after-hours care on my doorstep?”
The answer to that question continues to frustrate residents, with the number of Waimakariri residents using after-hours medical services in Christchurch increasing by 17 per cent since 2019.
When the issue was brought to Te Whatu Ora, it agreed the taxi voucher system was only provided to residents in “specific circumstances”.
“Te Whatu Ora will continue to regularly update ED staff about the criteria and process for this service,” a statement from the health provider read.
Executive director of planning, funding and decision support, Tracey Maisey, said residents attending the hospital are able to get a free taxi when directed to the Emergency Department by St John’s after-hours telephone triage service.
An associate clinical nurse on shift will give the voucher to the patient once the eligibility is confirmed.
“Taxi vouchers are also available to eligible patients to return home when they are discharged from the Emergency Department,” said Maisey.
“Patients who need a taxi voucher to return to Rangiora need to ask Emergency Department staff for a voucher.”
Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you