Leah Panapa: Would you go see a drive-through doctor?

Opinion 02/08/2019

By Leah Panapa, Magic Talk Nights host.

Going to the doctor can be not only expensive but frustrating, even making the appointment can be the first stumbling block!

My GP only works on select days so it can be hard to get in to see her, then there is the waiting that seems to be part and parcel of seeing a doctor?

No matter what time you are booked in, you know that in reality you will be sitting outside their office for a minimum of 15-20 minutes. Then add in the cost of the consultation and medication, and it is easy to see why many either don’t go or wait until they are very very sick.

Would you go to a drive through doctor?

So would the idea of a 'drive through’ medical centre that is efficient and cheaper be something you would entertain?

I spoke with Doctor Lance O’Sullivan who says he had a lightbulb moment at 3 in the morning when he woke up thinking “I am going to create drive-through medical centres!”

He plans to open 200 of these privately funded clinics around the country by 2021, and says the first will open in Rotorua by November, with the following clinics set down for Kaitaia and in my neighbourhood of Northcote.

I asked the good doctor what ‘drive through’ healthcare would look like?

He says each mobile clinic will be made from 40 foot refurbished containers that will have two drive through windows. There will also be two triage rooms and a clinic for those that feel they still want some ‘one on one’ time. You will see either a community health care worker or nurse and be able to see a GP if needed. A digital platform will also be created for patients.

O’Sullivan says people don’t want to wait around at the doctors office and he hopes that the portable clinics, that would be based at supermarket car parks, will allow people to access them easily.

O’Sullivan is a former New Zealander of the Year and founder of Moko Foundation, a non-profit charitable trust that supports vulnerable children and young people. I have the utmost respect for the man but did question how would someone get diagnosed when sitting in their car!

He says the first thing he asks his patients is “What do you think is wrong with you?” He says we are the only ones that know our bodies, and if a patient is just wanting to get their blood pressure taken or some medication repeated, the drive through windows would be perfect. He reiterated that patients can of course come into the clinic into one of the rooms.

The current approach is not working.

One thing I do know and agree one hundred percent with O’Sullivan is the current approach is not working and many people are slipping through the cracks to receive healthcare.

He says we have got to try something different because if we don’t people will continue to suffer as they can’t or won’t go to a doctor early enough and the cost to the country is far too high.

I truly hope this is something that communities will embrace and as O’Sullivan told me, “I have to try, it will either be a success, or a phenomenal failure... but I have to try."

Leah Panapa is host of Magic Talk Nights.