Guess who don’t like the idea of free doctors’ visits? Doctors

Cheaper or free GP visits sound like a great idea, but some doctors in Marlborough fear the pre-election promises could put extra demand on already strained practices.

Marlborough has long suffered from a lack of GPs, with some clinics having to turn away new enrolments while others have struggled to hire new doctors.

And just as the situation was easing, it looks like the major political parties, in their quest for votes, could set the region back.

National has announced $18 GP visits for all community services card holders, with an extra 300,000 people on low incomes to become eligible for the card.

Labour says it will fund a $10 subsidy for GP visits bringing the average fee from $42 to $32. Community service card holders would pay $8 for adults and $2 for teens.

The Greens say they will offer free GP visits and prescriptions for under 18-year-olds, and review the funding model for general practices. NZ First is offering three free GP visits for pensioners each year.

But doctors in Marlborough are concerned the cheaper visits will blow out waiting lists again.

Francis St Medical GP Dr Guy Gardiner said policies should make sure the sector could manage the influx of patients who could suddenly afford more visits.

Naaaaah. ?Just like immigration, we don’t have houses, or schools, or roads, or hospitals to cope with all the new people. ?Political parties won’t make sure there will actually be doctors – just that finally when you get to see one – it’s cheaper or free.

Renwick Medical Centre GP and the Top of the South Rural Alliance chairman Dr Buzz Burrell said he was disappointed in the policies he had heard so far.

“Subsidies won’t change much in terms of improving access to GPs if we don’t invest in getting medical students to seriously consider general practice.”

Running a clinic like a business – charging patients to pay wages and overheads – meant keeping patients healthy was not as lucrative as treating unhealthy patients, which showed the health system was flawed, Burrell said.

“Primary care should not be a business, it should be focused solely on keeping people well.”


– Marlborough Express