On New Year's Day prescription charges rise from $3 to $5, but already many families can't afford to pick up all their prescriptions.
One pharmacy in Porirua says it already has a massive backlog of uncollected medication, and that had one customer so concerned, she took action.
Tolo Pereira is a mum and an early childhood teacher in Porirua. She doesn't think twice about picking up prescriptions for her family, but when she saw the backlog of uncollected prescriptions at Cannon's Creek Pharmacy, she had to act
“I thought, gosh if there's medication there for really young children and the parents couldn't afford to pick it up because they didn’t have the money – that hit me really hard,” she says.
Ms Pereira took to Facebook, asking residents to donate money for those who can't afford the $3 prescription fee.
The response was overwhelming, and she raised $400 in one week.
Pharmacy owner Kas Govind is amazed at the community’s generosity.
“I've been in the community for 12 years, that sort of generosity really touches our heart chord.”
Mr Govind says medicine is often uncollected during high-cost periods like Christmas.
“It’s a high-need community, it's not just one $3 item on a prescription, there's usually four or five so that's $12 or $15.”
And the price for each prescription goes up on Tuesday from $3 to $5.
Labour MP Chris Hipkins says the increase could see the Government paying more in the long run.
“If cost becomes a barrier they're less likely to go to the doctor, they're less likely to get the treatment they need and we'll end up paying a lot more as their medical conditions become a lot more serious.”
Mr Govind says the solution seems simple to him.
“Those that can least afford it, pay the least, those that can, pay a bit more.”
The Pharmacy Guild says the prescription co-payment is felt right across the country and that the Government should target socio-economic areas differently, charging more or less, so that cost isn't a barrier when people collect medicine.
But for now, one small community has shown a bit of generosity can go a long way
“So there is a hundred prescriptions paid for – for the community, by the community – it’s a wonderful story,” says Mr Govind.