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Fees gridlock broken

PHONZ media release

31 May 2006

Fees gridlock broken

Primary Health groups today made significant advances in negotiating a process for lowering patient fees for 45 to 64-year-old New Zealanders.

More than 22 issues, some highly contentious, which been raised by GPs and PHOs over the last few weeks, were worked through and resolved.

"We are very pleased to have achieved this breakthrough which means all PHOs and their general practice networks can resume local discussions and mandates around securing the new funding and reducing patient fees for 45 to 65 year-olds come July 1,'' said Sir Ron Scott, chair of PHONZ.

"Today's result means everyone can refocus on the benefits of getting primary health care funding out to GPs and patients."

Negotiations between DHBNZ and PHOs over the roll out of an additional $110 million in Government funding for cheaper doctor visits for 45 to 64-year-olds have been taking place since March. Some GPs had raised concerns the moves amounted to Government control over fees.

Sir Ron said DHBs had carefully considered the concerns expressed and acknowledged that some aspects of the fees review process had been seen as fee setting or control. As a result they have now agreed to re-write the binding nature of the review and specifically recognise GPs and PHOs ability to set their own fees.

A document outlining the changes and agreements made has been drafted and would be sent immediately to all GPs to consider.

Sir Ron said PHOs and PHONZ supported the right of their GPs as private businesses to set their own fees but some GPs had received conflicting and confusing messages during the fees negotiation process.

"This has placed them in an untenable position where their professional allegiance to general practice has been put in direct conflict with with their commitment to their patients.''

Most PHOs and GPs want access to the new funding to ensure the sustainability of their local primary health services and to ensure that 690,000 New Zealanders get access to significantly reduced GP fees.

Sir Ron said after today's meeting he was confident the issues raised by GP groups, who had left the negotiation table had been addressed. There is no reason why they should not also access the new funding and resume dialogue.

We encourage all PHOs and GPs to consider the substantial changes achieved today and as independent businesses consider the merits of the proposal on the basis of the solution offered.

DHBNZ spokesman Chris Clarke said he was pleased negotiations had moved passed the impasse experienced yesterday and that the opportunity was on the table for the sector to move forward in improving the primary health care strategy.


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