Non-payment puts practice at risk: GP

Greg White.
Greg White.
A Cromwell GP says his business is at risk after the Government ruled against a second tranche of funding to bolster general practices in the wake of Covid-19.

The decision represents a U-turn from what the Government initially announced for GPs, particularly rural ones, on April 8.

One of those affected is Dr Greg White of Cromwell Family Practice.

The announcement from the Ministry of Heath and district health boards stated general practices would receive a payment that day to support them in the Covid-19 response, with particular recognition for rural practices.

The same announcement noted that a second payment would be made in two weeks.

On Monday it was announced the second payment would not go ahead.

Dr White said yesterday that left him and other doctors with similar-sized practices squeezed.

‘‘Level 3 means little will change in practices, and we likely will remain locked down for many months.’’

The notification late Monday evening came with little warning, he said.

‘‘It’s been really vague as to what we get and now our whole business model has been tipped on its head.

‘‘We are going to have to keep treating people as if they have coronavirus ... The rug has been pulled from under us without warning.’’

The overheads for smaller practices were mounting and that meant considering staffing levels. Some practices had changed and that included phone or virtual consultations but it was difficult to put a price on them.

He also anticipated a wave of patients who had avoided  going to the doctor during lockdown, but questioned if  practices were equipped to deal with that.

‘‘[Director-general of health] Dr Ashley Bloomfield  says there is plenty of PPE [personal protective equipment] ... It must be sitting in a warehouse somewhere.’’

New Zealand Medical Association chairwoman  Jan White said the organisation would work on GPs’ behalf.

‘‘Following a Government decision, the second payment of $22million to support frontline general practice and ease the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will not be made ... We will not accept this decision.’’

General practices needed the additional support promised to compensate for costs and loss  of revenue and be prepared for the expected deluge of illness and healthcare to follow, she said. 

‘‘General practice is in a unique and extremely challenging position; we are an essential service, we are frontline and we are small businesses reliant on cash flow.’’

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