Parents’ time doesn’t count

What do you do when you need to cut the cost of services? Push the expense out to users, of course.

The Auckland District Health Board is planning to close down about 40 school dental clinics, and consolidate services at central clinics. That seems sensible – there must be some economies of scale to be realised. But how will children get to the dental clinics? Previously, they would simply walk across the school playground, but now the plan is that:

Greater use may be made of mobile clinics and transport may be provided to treat those without a fixed clinic at their school, or parents may have to ferry their children.

Story in the New Zealand Herald, Friday 3 August

Excellent strategy. After all, parents’ time is not valuable, and there’s no stress whatsoever in leaving work for a couple of hours to get your kids to the dental service which you have paid for through your taxes!

When public authorities make decisions like this, they show a total disregard for the difficulties of combining work and family. As I have mentioned before, and no doubt will do so again, it takes an extraordinary amount of effort to juggle children and work. In an environment where work-related stress is increasingly recognised as a health issue, and where the skills shortage is starting to bite, we need to make it easier for parents to work in paid employment, not harder. When decisions are made about how to deliver taxpayer funded services, these issues need to be taken into account.

Fortunately, the Auckland District Health Board is just floating this idea. If you are a parent in Auckland, it might be worth dropping them a line. Try Denis Jury, Chief Planning and Funding Manager, or Garry Smith, the Chief Executive, Auckland District Health Board, Private Bag 92024, Auckland.

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