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GPNZ Statement Following Cabinet Decision To Withdraw Additional 22m Funding For General Practice

General Practice continues to provide care to our population under extraordinary circumstances and has adapted ways health care is offered in a very short space of time. This work has been significant in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep patients safe. Changes to a more virtual service delivery over the last month have however, highlighted both the inadequacies of the current funding model, and the speed at which General Practice has been unable to sustain itself after reports some practices lost up to 75% of income due to a reduction in patient co-payments during the first weeks of level four restrictions.

“While consultation numbers are back on the rise, sustainability is still a concern with associated co-payments taking longer to be paid via new e-payment processes and a reduced ability for many people to pay for services under current circumstances,” says GPNZ CE Liz Stockley.

“An estimated 80% of General Practice expense falls within workforce cost and can be the first thing to be stripped back under difficult circumstances. We need to ensure our frontline health teams, while working differently, are still equipped to continue their critical work supporting the frontline health needs of our population amidst this Covid-19 containment period,” she says.

Dr Jeff Lowe GPNZ Chair adds that, “General Practice, supported by PHOs, have demonstrated a willingness to step up and support communities in agile and proactive ways during the Covid-19 Pandemic, but need additional investment now, to ensure workforce capacity can meet the expected wave of deferred health demands over the coming months through elective and planned care.”

GPNZ acknowledges the investment that Government has already made towards Primary Care during Covid-19 pandemic which has been used to purchase a variety of equipment to keep staff and the population safe. This includes Perspex screens, road cones, security as well as equipment to deliver virtual and tele-health care effectively, such as monitors, web cabs and headsets.

General Practice continues to work closely with the health system in positive partnerships with DHBs and Ministry of Health.

“Additional funding is required to continue to sustain our workforce so that New Zealanders can receive the care they need over the coming months.” says Dr Lowe. “It’s also an important equity conversation as Maori and vulnerable communities will be disproportionality affected by deferred care wait times,” he says.

Over the last month, General Practice has changed the way it works by creating:

  • New ways of working for GPs and nurses – remote, virtual, telephone, portal as well as clinical triage
  • New and improved patient experience of care
  • Technology applications that support clinical work and workflow that are user friendly, patient centred and cost effective
  • New communication pathways – social media, portal, website, community notices
  • A two-team workforce as a health and safety and infection control management strategy

General practices have adapted to:

  • Managing vulnerable people amidst the threat of ongoing COVID infection
  • Proactive COVID testing of high risk and marginalised communities
  • Managing potential exposure of COVID infection in the workplace
  • Meeting the demand for technology enabled services, e.g. telephone and video consultations, Virtual YoC, Virtual consultations with allied health workers, e.g. pharmacists, health coaches, mental health workers, PCPA’s etc
  • Effectively managing the service and daily workload with a two-team workforce or a different way of working

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