Improving housing and nutrition would do more good for
children than giving them free doctors' visits, Dunedin GP
Susie Lawless says.
The Budget contained the surprise announcement GP visits and
pharmacy scripts would be free for children under 13 from
July next year.
Dr Lawless would have preferred a comprehensive public health
programme, rather than a single policy.
''Just throwing it into the Budget does smack of
electioneering, rather than a considered plan.
''There has been a significant barrier to attendance that
comes in at the 6-year-old threshold when they have to start
''There is no particular logic to increasing funding for this
particular group, but overall anything that increases access
to primary health care is a good move, as international
research is clear that a primary care-driven system improves
outcomes and reduces costs at a population level.''
The reaction of her colleagues at Amity Health Centre had
been somewhat mixed, she said.
Dr Lawless believed too many New Zealanders were living in
poverty, on less than a ''living wage''.
Balclutha GP Branko Sijnja, who is also New Zealand Medical
Association president, said he wanted to see more targeted
assistance to those most in need, rather than universal
He believed some people were really struggling who fell just
short of qualifying for other government assistance.
It was crucial the scheme was adequately funded, as GPs could
not sustain further financial pressure.
It would be for individual practices to decide whether to
join, or continue to charge. Times were much tougher now for
general practice, he suggested.
''We've run into times where practices are going broke.
''We've never, ever in the past known of practices going
broke, but it's happening now.''
The allocation - $90 million over three years - did not look
like a lot of money, he said.
More detail was needed before practices could decide whether
to buy into the scheme, There was little scope for adult fees
to subsidise the children's service, as they were already
high in many practices, he said.