Free Doctors’ visits prompts tears of joy

Jan Tinetti’s been “screaming about suffering and struggling for years”.

She happily got “quite emotional” while flicking through the health provisions of the government’s budget in the lockup before Grant Robertson delivered it to Parliament.

“They were going to give under 14-year-olds free access to GPs. Then I started crying in the house,” says Jan Tinetti. Perhaps because the Tauranga Labour MP was wearing her old school ma’am hat.

“We are finally doing something about the suffering and the struggling I have been screaming about all these years.” That’s the suffering and struggling she witnessed on a daily basis as principal of Merivale Primary School.

“I can talk about the people I have worked with very closely over the past few years, the people from the lower socio-economic areas. I was teaching children who could not access a doctor, because their parents could not afford it.”

And she says these are the same parents who always put their kids’ needs ahead of their own. “If there was money, they’d spend it on the doctor for their kids. They are the same parents who really wanted their kids to get medical attention, but couldn’t afford it.”

She says they had life threatening issues. “But they couldn’t access a doctor until they were headed to Accident and Emergency because they were desperate. And they were getting there really, really late. Too late.”

Jan Tinetti can remember, within a two-month period in 2016, visiting eleven of her pupils in hospital with severe respiratory complaints. “That’s while I was principal – 11 of my kids were in hospital.

“One had rheumatic fever simply because they didn’t get to the doctor, and they didn’t get there because the parents couldn’t afford it.”

Then there was another of her pupils who ended up in Starship suffering septicaemia from an untreated school sore. “He is very lucky to have survived. It was scary.”

Now the government is extending free doctor visits to under 14-year-olds. Parents can now take their kids to the doctor. Now kids will be safe.

It may appear incremental, but it’s enough to bring on more empathetic Tinetti tears, as the MP talks to The Weekend Sun in her Greerton electorate office this week.

“For people who haven’t worked in my situation, they may not realise the massive impact this will have. This will make a huge difference.”

Because, says the MP, these are often the people much of the city doesn’t see. “But there are a lot of them, a significant number.

“So that equity for those people is fantastic. Seeing those people accessing the help they absolutely need is a wonderful thing for this city.”