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Doctors reject medical misadventure levy

Doctors reject any suggestion that the no-fault nature of the accident insurance scheme should be changed by introducing a levy on health professionals, says the New Zealand Medical Association.

The ACC Board has passed to the Government a report on charging health professionals a levy for medical misadventure.

"Why should health professionals be singled out among other workers for the removal of the no-fault provision?" NZMA Chairman Dr Pippa MacKay asked. "Research from overseas shows no evidence that this will improve the safety of patients.

"And if the Government is to consider imposing a levy for medical misadventure, then it would be illogical to impose it for both medical error and medical mishap."

Medical error is defined as negligence or fault on the part of the health professional, while medical mishap is a rare and severe complication which occurs despite treatment being carried out correctly.

"Medicine is not a perfect science, and complications do occur. These are usually no fault of the doctor," Dr MacKay said. "Clearly medical mishap should not be included with medical error."

Dr MacKay said the Government should also consider the financial effect of such a levy on health professionals and patients. For specialists who work in public hospitals, which are already hard-pressed financially, the hospitals will be expected to pay the levy from the funding they receive from the Government.

General practitioners and private specialists who are self-employed will have no choice but to pass the new charges on to their patients, as already happens with other costs.

But midwives and doctors who do obstetrics in the private sector will not be able to recoup their costs as they receive a fixed fee from the Government and are not permitted to charge women for maternity services. Many doctors (both GPs and obstetricians) and midwives have given up offering maternity services, because of difficulties with the funding system, and this will only worsen the situation.

Ends


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