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Primary Health Care Funding Welcomed

The New Zealand Medical Association has welcomed the funding package for primary health care announced by Health Minister Annette King today.

"Primary care is in great need of a funding boost, particularly if the Government wants to achieve the aims of its Primary Health Care Strategy," said NZMA Chairman Dr John Adams.

"The Government has been very specific about just what the new funding will be spent on - and has rightly focused initially on the people with the highest needs and low incomes. However, we are not convinced that directing the initial funding through a small number of Primary Health Organisations is the right way to do this.

"General practice delivers about 85 percent of primary health care services, and it is important that the new funding enables New Zealanders to get better access to their usual general practice services."

Dr Adams said it was helpful that funding had been announced for three years, which will give the sector some certainty about its future. Also welcome was the fact that systems have been put in place to prevent the new funding from being diverted to other parts of the health sector.

"$400 million over three years seems like a lot of money. However, we have significant concerns about whether it is sufficient to meet all the objectives for the initial implementation of the Primary Health Care Strategy, particularly the move towards population-based services as much of the new funding will be taken up in improving access to services.

"We also question whether the $4-5 million allocated to set up Primary Health Organisations will be enough," Dr Adams said.

"The increase in the patient subsidy for under sixes is welcomed, but there is still a substantial gap between the subsidy and the true cost of providing the service."

The NZMA, and general practice as a whole, will want to look closely at the new funding figures, and will want to engage closely with the Government over how these funds are to be applied most effectively, Dr Adams concluded.


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