Coronavirus: Who'll foot the bill for GP's protective costs a 'secondary matter' - Health Minister

Health Minister David Clark says reports DHBs are charging doctors for gear that would protect them against catching COVID-19 is a "secondary matter".

Newshub revealed on Friday GPs are feeling "out of the loop" on what's available, despite the Ministry of Health saying all clinics now had personal protective equipment.

New Zealand Medical Association GP Committee chair Dr Jan White told Newshub her clinic had not seen any supplies from either the DHB or the Ministry of Health, and they had to source their own supplies.

"I think it's absolutely unacceptable and I think I would go as far as to say it's unethical in the situation that we're in for a DHB to charge general practice for gear to protect themselves, their staff and their patients."

COVID-19 has an estimated R0 value of 2.2, meaning every person it infects will, on average, go on to infect more than two others. In comparison, influenza has an r0 value of about 1.3. 

Dr Clark was asked on Newshub Nation on Saturday if it was acceptable for GPs to be charged for necessary protective gear.

"I think the most important thing is they have the gear," he told host Simon Shepherd. "Sorting out who pays for it is a secondary matter."

There is enough to go around, he insisted, and shortages aren't expected.

"We do. We've got over 9 million masks of one type and a further 9 million on another. We've got a factory - we are fortunate. We've got a factory that constructs masks in New Zealand - lots of other countries do not. We are well-prepared for this." 

The Ministry of Health on Friday said ensuring GPs had personal protective equipment was its "number one priority".