Coronavirus: GPs fighting Government to deliver on $22 million they believe was promised

GPs are fighting the Government to deliver on $22 million in funding they believe was promised to keep running during the COVID-19 crisis, but Newshub understands the Ministry of Health messed up in promising the funding in the first place.

GPs across New Zealand have a lot on their shoulders during the coronavirus pandemic. Dr Tim Malloy highlighted to Newshub: "Every one of them comes to work with a level of anxiety and fear just like everybody else."

Add to that huge financial stress, because although GPs are open, it's not business as usual as they are not seeing as many patients, there's less income, staff have to take unplanned annual leave, and some are being laid off.

Even more concerning is that they have apparently been short-changed by the Government after an expected payment of $22.5 million was pulled due to what Newshub understands was a Ministry of Health blunder.

"This is money that we cannot be without," New Zealand Medical Association GP Committee chair Dr Jan White told Newshub. "It's concerning. There are so many general practises that are in dire straits right now."

Dr Malloy added, "We need that support - we need it now."

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said on Tuesday there is an "active conversation" between Health Minister David Clark, general practise leaders and the Ministry of Health "on further funding".

Dr Bloomfield said that's "ongoing and I can't comment any further on it".

General Practice Owners Association Interim Chair Dr Tim Malloy.
General Practice Owners Association Interim Chair Dr Tim Malloy. Photo credit: Newshub

Newshub understands on March 29 a crisis meeting was held. The Ministry of Health left GPs with the impression that a package of $11 million per week of lockdown was agreed on.

On April 8, two weeks worth of that funding was paid, and they were told to expect a second payment about now, but on Sunday were told the second payment would not be going ahead.

"To suddenly hear that that second two weeks was not coming through... yes, shocked," Dr White told Newshub.

Dr Bloomfield said, "I don't think it's been taken away but the conversation is ongoing and active."

Clinics had already budgeted to have the money and staffed accordingly, and Dr Malloyd says it is "adding another burden on the coalface which seems unnecessary".

Newshub understands the Ministry of Health got ahead of itself in assuring GPs they would get a second round of funding before that decision had been signed off by Cabinet.

The Health Minister wouldn't do an interview with Newshub, saying it's an ongoing negotiation - and he'd give further details when that had wrapped. 

"The Government recognises the impact the lockdown has had on General Practices and the vital work they do. The Government has provided a total of $37.4 million to date in recognition of the costs they face," he said in a statement.

The Health Minister pointed out in many cases clinics can access the wage subsidy scheme.