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PHO Establishment in Disarray

PHO Establishment in Disarray

Sunday 8 Sep 2002 Heather Roy Press Releases -- Health

The Minister of Health's plan to turn general practitioners into civil servants appears to be unravelling, ACT Health Spokesman Heather Roy said today.

Annette King intends to set up Primary Health Organisations (PHOs) to replace GP practices which currently operate as small businesses.

"The Minister is sending mixed messages regarding the establishment of PHOs and their funding.

"In response to my Parliamentary Questions about PHO funding Mrs King admits "no decisions have yet been taken about any aspects for the PHO funding formula". This is despite her November 2001 promise that the formula would be developed "soon".

"Mrs King is not just behind schedule, though. She is also delivering different messages to different people, creating further confusion and disarray.

"In a speech on 30 August to the Rural GP Network and Rural Nurses Conference Mrs King said:

"A practice population of 1200 people that has a low rural ranking score would earn a premium of $8,900 for its PHO. At the other end of the scale of isolation,

a similar practice, with a high rural ranking score, would earn $22,500 for its

PHO to spend on workforce retention".

"Clearly Mrs King has done some work on PHO funding formulae to be able to present such specific figures to the Rural Conference. But if no decisions have yet been taken, how much credence can health professionals give to her latest promises?

"Mrs King's contradictory messages show the establishment of PHOs and their funding is in disarray.

"ACT is in favour of greater emphasis on primary healthcare and prevention of illness but the question has to be asked if PHOs are ever going to be established in the way Mrs King has outlined.

"Mrs King has recently made it clear that PHO's are voluntary.

"At the moment some General Practices receive capitation from District Health Boards as an interim measure while they are working toward establishment of PHOs. Capitated practices are bulk-funded but still charge a co-payment for each patient visit. Meanwhile, Community Services Cards still apply and the Minister has reluctantly admitted they will not be phased out for another decade.

"The two funding systems will be operating together for up to ten years, which will simply create more bureaucracy and unfairness. It even seems unclear what the difference is between this system and the new PHO system. I have written to Mrs King asking for clarification.

"Mrs King says some PHOs are up and running in South Auckland and others are almost ready for launching in other areas. How are they being funded? Background Briefing papers released recently by the Ministry of Health warned the minister that "Government decisions are required soon about the details of rolling out PHO funding and the funding formula".

"These mixed messages regarding funding are very confusing for General Practitioners and other health professionals in the process of setting up PHOs.

"Mrs King needs to clear up the existing confusion and must present a primary health initiative which is not in disarray," Mrs Roy said.

For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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