Good news for patients ahead of World Family Doctor Day
Today’s Budget announcements will provide welcome relief for patients needing to see their GP, says Dr Tim Malloy, President of The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.
“I am encouraged by the Minister of Health’s statement that this Budget marks the beginning of a ‘rebuild of critical health services’,” says Dr Malloy.
Today’s announcement includes extending eligibility for the Community Services Card to all those receiving the accommodation supplement or income-related rent subsidy; extending access to very low-cost GP visits to all Community Services Card holders; and extending free GP visits and prescriptions to children under the age of 14.
Dr Malloy, who attended the Social Sector Budget lock up briefing in Wellington today, says he has been advised there is likely to be an announcement about a review of general practice funding within the next two weeks.
The Government’s decision to focus on high needs patients is prudent says Dr Malloy.
“The 2016 New Zealand Health Survey results showed over 500,000 people chose not to see a GP because of cost. This figure is 21 percent for Māori and Pacific people,” he says.
“We have seen evidence of this with many people turning up to hospital emergency departments because they can’t afford $40 – $70 to see their GP. This is a sign of a health system that’s not working well.
“Simply reducing GP fees won’t necessarily make GPs more accessible – in fact it might create an unmanageable peak in demand, which the current workforce might not be able to match.
“Overall, the Government’s approach has to be about taking the time to get the solution right. We are looking forward to working with sector leaders and politicians to ensure GPs’ voices are heard.
“I would like to personally thank all of our GPs for their continuing service to their communities, many of whom have been taking on the stress of an under-funded and under-resourced sector.
“This is particularly relevant as we approach World Family Doctor Day on 19 May, a day to celebrate the immense contribution GPs make to our society.”