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Study exposes rural general practice finances

NEW ZEALAND MEDICAL ASSOCIATION MEDIA RELEASE

FROM: Dr Don Simmers, Deputy Chair NZMA

DATE: Thursday, 30 November 2006

SUBJECT: Study exposes rural general practice finances

Rural general practice services need to be funded at realistic levels otherwise New Zealanders from small towns and rural areas will miss out, says the New Zealand Medical Association, in response to a study published in the latest New Zealand Medical Journal.

The research, by New Zealand’s first professor of general practice, Campbell Murdoch, showed that GPs in rural New Zealand are earning less than the minimum wage providing after-hours and maternity services.

“The NZMA has continued to press the Minister and Ministry of Health to improve working conditions in rural areas, but they seems oblivious to the harsh economic realities of providing these essential services in rural areas,” said NZMA Deputy Chair Dr Don Simmers, spokesman on rural and maternity issues.

Professor Murdoch’s study explores the various ways in which a typical small town rural general practice generates its income. His study was based on the Winton Medical Centre in central Southland.

For the provision of all after-hours care the medical centre generated an average hourly income of just $11.43. For providing care after midnight the income dropped to a meagre $1.35 per hour. Annual income received for delivering primary maternity services to a practice population of 6320, including income generated from a local primary care birthing unit, totalled less than $40,000.

“As the paper points out, with the withdrawal of GPs from doing maternity care, it is little wonder that many small towns throughout New Zealand now have no access to locally based maternity services as this annual income is grossly inadequate for the minimum of three LMC midwives that would be required to provide a 365 day service,” commented Dr Simmers.

The study was carried out during the 1999/2000 financial year. With the introduction of the Primary Health Care Strategy there have been significant improvements to the funding of primary care.

“Unfortunately, this strategy has made very little difference to the provision of after-hours medical care and maternity services in provincial and rural New Zealand,” Dr Simmers concluded.

(NZMJ study is attached)

ENDS

See... NZ Medical Journal - Making it pay and helping us stay: the viability of a rural general practice in New Zealand

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