'Swamped' health system a direct result of Government failures - GP Owners Association

The stressed state of New Zealand's healthcare system is a direct result of Government failures, the General Practice Owners Association (GenPro) says as GP clinics and emergency departments enter crisis mode.

GenPro chair Tim Malloy's comments come after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared on The AM Show on Tuesday where she discussed the crisis in emergency departments.

"What we've got to keep working on is when people come to our emergency departments, sometimes they're preventable illnesses that have just got away on us, they haven't been treated properly in primary care," Ardern said.

But the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) said it was appalled at those comments from Ardern, alleging she suggested GPs are "failing" to treat people in the community.

A spokesperson for Ardern, however, told Newshub on Wednesday the NZMA had misinterpreted the Prime Minister.

"The Prime Minister was highlighting the importance of our GPs and primary care in preventing people from needing to access emergency care."

Nonetheless, Dr Malloy said on Wednesday nothing had been done to address the increasing pressure and staff were at breaking point.

He said the system is falling apart and the situation is dire.

"There has been no progress to address the issues of underfunding in general practice for the last four years, at least, and probably for longer.

"The fact that it's the whole of the health system being swamped at the moment - in my view, this is the consequence of an inadequate workforce and inadequate funding over a long period of time."

Ardern said on Tuesday the Government plans to announce a reform of the healthcare sector in the coming weeks. Dr Malloy said communities will be compromised if help doesn't come.

"We have had unprecedented stresses on our workload and it's just getting worse.

Tim Malloy.
Tim Malloy. Photo credit: Newshub.

"This is a long-standing problem in terms of developing our workforce to meet the needs of an escalating population and, more importantly, an increasing burden of health as our population ages."

NZMA chair Kate Baddock told Newshub on Tuesday they too felt let down by the Government.

GPs are holding on by a thread and there will be no doctors left at this rate, she said.

Kate Baddock.
Kate Baddock. Photo credit: Newshub.

"Morale, in general practice, is at an all-time low," Dr Baddock said. "They are leaving the practices in droves.

"There are twice as many people now planning to retire within the next five years as there were five years ago."

Later on Wednesday morning, Ardern clarified her comments from the previous day and said she wasn't criticising GPs.

"That is not at all what my intent was. In fact, what I was pointing to was the fact that in some cases, preventable hospital admissions are preventable if people are accessing their GP services," she told reporters.

"We see the role of general practice and primary healthcare as key to reducing the demand on our hospitals.

"For us, we absolutely need to make sure we are doing all we can to support communities to access that form of healthcare and to support our GP practices who are providing it."