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Study Shows GPs Give Exceptional Value

The Deloittes study into the economics of running a general practice show that the majority of people are getting exceptional value from their doctor, according to the Royal NZ College of General Practitioners.

College President Dr Helen Rodenburg says that while the study - commissioned by the IPA Council - talks of GPs earning $100,000 or more and charging up to $56 for a standard consultation, the reality is very different. "Most GPs earn far less. I've seen the figures from one practice in a mid sized city where the doctor ends up with about $14,000 a year after expenses. Certainly GP incomes need to be addressed - especially if we want to retain a skilled and experienced workforce and attract young graduates to remain in New Zealand - but GPs in the main understand that access to good quality primary care is vital for people.

"It shouldn't be assumed from this report that the cost of visiting the doctor is going to rise to over $50 for most people. There are a handful of practices paying high overheads in the CBDs of our main cities that charge that kind of figure, and the busy professionals who attend those surgeries know they are paying for the convenience." Dr Rodenburg says most GPs would be charging "somewhere between $30 and $45 a visit, and often less in lower socio-economic areas. GPs also discount fees for patients they know are in financial difficulty. If you analyse the Deloittes report, the GP has to recover $24 from each consultation just to cover their overheads and expenses. So that means the GP themselves receives somewhere between $6 and $21 - that's exceptionally good value for the services of a highly trained professional."

GPs are dedicated to family medicine, Dr Rodenburg says, "If high incomes are your only concern there are far more lucrative branches of medicine to go into. Having said that, raising of the issue of GP remuneration is both timely and appropriate. Like any independent small business a general practice must cover it's overheads and pay it's owner. Many GPs are struggling to financially justify remaining in business, and only their dedication to their patients is keeping them there. Hopefully this report will prove a useful tool in negotiating improved subsidy levels for our patients with the Ministry of Health."

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