Coronavirus: Lack of funding could mean many GPs 'out of work' - NZ Medical Association

General practices across the country are desperate to receive Government funding they believe was previously promised to them, says the New Zealand Medical Association.

Dr Kate Baddock, the association's chair, told the Epidemic Response Committee that although there has been a massive impact on all areas of the medical profession GPs in general are struggling to stay afloat as the result of a lack of consultations. 

Despite practices scrambling to ready themselves in preparation for the lockdown, by implementing measures such as virtual consultations, Dr Baddock said many Kiwis were staying away from their GPs entirely.

"People, for fear of catching COVID-19, they didn't want to leave their homes, they didn't want to burden doctors, they didn't want to add to the weight of the health care burden, and they didn't perceive - and don't perceive still - their concerns as being important in the greater scheme," said Dr Baddock.

She told the committee that as well as putting many people's health at risk, the situation has placed an incredible strain on GPs' finances.

"The ability of general practices to stay afloat in this kind of environment is very, very unlikely in lots of cases."

Dr Baddock said cashflow was "very much hand-to-mouth".

Though an initial cash injection had been given to practices before the lockdown began, a second tranche meant to help GPs weather the lockdown storm had not been forthcoming.

"The ministry, the DHBs and the minister had all agreed that funding was required and they could see the imperative need," she told the committee. 

"There was an understanding that because of the known shortfall, and also the expected shortfall going forward, that there would be an injection of funding of $45 million over four weeks to sustain general practice through lockdown before we could start to establish and catch up with ourselves in terms of ongoing patient demand and supply.

"And that has not happened. They have reneged on that expectation and the final tranche has not been forwarded to general practice."

Without the money, many practices may not be able to survive the financial stress of the lockdown, she said.

"It is an immediate need, and there will be practices and doctors who are out of work because of it."

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said on Tuesday there was an "active conversation" between Health Minister David Clark, general practice leaders and the Ministry of Health around "further funding", but would not comment further on the subject.