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What is Government trying to do?

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners has released the following statement about today's breakdown in negotiations over GP fees.

30 May 2006

MEDIA STATEMENT For immediate release

What is Government trying to do?

The College of GPs has questioned the motives of the Ministry of Health and DHBs in adopting a stance that threatens to undermine the primary health care strategy.

“We already know there are many communities in New Zealand where patients struggle to find a GP and today’s events are likely to only worsen this situation” said Dr Jonathan Fox. president of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.

Dr Fox was puzzled by the abrupt breakdown of the contract negotiations between DHBs and PHOs in respect of additional funding for 45 – 64 year olds. The funding, worth approx $110 million would have made visits to GPs cheaper for people in that age group who were not already subsidised by the government.

“In the past GPs have passed on the government funding to their patients, and the College believes there is no basis for the DHBs to believe that this would not be the case this year."

However DHBs sought to make changes to last year’s contract and these changes were not acceptable to GPs who own their own businesses. “Their refusal to even negotiate on this point is very disappointing,” Dr Fox said.

New Zealand enjoys a variety of models through which general practice is delivered. For most people however, their GP will either own their own business or be employed by a GP business-owner, who carries all the financial investment risk of providing primary medical care for their patients.

“In order to keep their business both viable and sustainable, they must be free to determine the costs and pricing structures unique to their business.” They cannot provide quality general practice in such an unstable environment.

Dr Fox said the College of GPs has been strongly supportive of the Primary Health Care Strategy, introduced in 2001, and played an important role in encouraging GPs to join PHOs and persuading the previous Minister to hasten the roll out of subsidies to patients.

“GPs have told us that they feel disillusioned, stressed, and even burnt out.” More than one third of respondents to the College’s 2005 workforce survey indicated that they would alter their current work arrangements by either reducing or ceasing their time in general practice” Dr Fox said.

“What is the Government’s motive?” he asked. “The last Minister of Health (Annette King) described GPs as being central to the primary health care strategy. Now these recent moves again threaten the stability of general practice."

Concerned that the breakdown of negotiations will cause even more GPs to consider leaving general practice, Dr Fox asked, “And what young doctor will now even consider primary care?”


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