A woman who’s had a stroke and can no longer drive, a man with poor literacy struggles to read an appointment letter from his GP, a family foregoes their son’s visit to the dentist because they’re unable to take time off work. All valid – and sometimes distressing - reasons for failing to seek medical help. All of which can be addressed with the help of a partnership community worker.

For various reasons, the number of people in our community missing out on health care is rising. It could be the cost of treatment is prohibitive, that they lack transport, have a mental or physical impairment or live isolated lives that prevent them seeking help. For people disaffected by the health system, a partnership community worker (PCW) can work with them to remove barriers to care and prevent them slipping through the cracks. Authorities have no way of knowing who is not registered with a primary health organisation.

Funded by Pegasus Health, the two PCWs at the Christchurch Methodist Mission are Danielle Bakker and Julie-Ann Pyatt.

“A lot of these people are the forgotten; someone who’s not got many friends or whose family is a long way away or have passed away. Often a GP is the only person these people see. If the guy who normally comes into a shop on a Thursday doesn’t come, the cashier won’t notice. But a GP will if he’s not picked up his meds,” says Danielle.

Much of the work of the PCWs involves explaining the health care system before helping clients come up with a plan of action the next time they meet a similar situation. It could mean providing a client with a voucher to go to the doctor, checking they receive the correct entitlement from Work and Income, referring them to a budget advisor, or setting up an automatic payment of a few dollars a week to the local medical centre so the money is there when they need care.

“When they can’t see the forest for the trees, I just walk beside them. I say to them, “There is a path, how about we just walk together until one becomes apparent,” Danielle says.

Both Julie-Ann and Danielle work with about 30 clients each, although the number peaked in the cold months of August and September to over 40. They stay with a client until that person is fully linked to the services they need. Referrals come from GPs, the Canterbury District Health Board, the emergency department and elsewhere in the community.

Danielle and Julie-Ann say the work aligns with the CMM commitment to bi-culturalism and to empowering people who are disadvantaged. The work matches the kaupapa of the Methodist Mission. “I’m proud that bi-culturalism is part of our strategic plan and that we are committed to seeing equity, particularly for Māori and Pacifika clients,” Julie-Ann says.

Partnership Community Workers Julie Ann Pyatt and Danielle Bakker

Julie-Ann Pyatt and Danielle Bakker have people obtain healthcare if they're unable to do so themselves.