GPs feeling frustrated with issues around community Covid-19 testing

GPs are frustrated with issues around community Covid-19 testing, with some doctors saying they haven't been treated with respect.

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A survey of GPs has found the number of swabs by doctors dropped prior to this week's alert level change. Source: 1 NEWS

A number of Auckland practices are waiting to be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for swabbing done weeks ago. 

"I think most GPs, certainly in the DHB I work in, feel we've been treated like mugs really," Dr John Carter, from Auckland's Greenwood Medical Centre, told 1 NEWS.

Bryan Betty, medical director of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, says there are concerns over funding issues.

"These do need to be rectified, there needs to be high trust between general practice, DHBs and the Government in terms of funding," he says.

The day after the move to Level 3, Auckland DHBs paid out $800,000 to primary care providers, and some of those 1 NEWS spoke to say it's the first money handed over in about six weeks.

"I think we got our payments on Thursday night which coincided with the need for us to start doing some swabbing again in a big hurry, which I think really spoke volumes about the attitude at the DHBs," Dr Carter says.

A number of GPs are waiting on additional money, with Auckland DHBs withholding 6 per cent of claims for testing, worth around $600,000.

In a statement, the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre says Auckland GPs have been paid $10 million for Covid-19 testing, from 90,000 claims.

"Ninety-four per cent of these have been paid in full and around 6 per cent... have received an initial payment and further analysis is being done to determine whether an additional top-up payment is required," says Matt Hannant, from the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre.

"The affected amount relates to claims made between 22 April to 5 May and 12 June to 2 July.

"It is important to the four DHBs to have certainty that public funds are spent appropriately and for this reason we have asked the national audit team to complete an external review which is underway.

"Once the review is complete, we expect the results will provide improved clarity on the payment rules for Covid-19 activity paid through POAC going forward."

But Dr Carter says charges have been halved or cut back with "no real explanations to why".

It comes as a survey of GP's has found the number of swabs by doctors dropped prior to this week's Alert Level change.

Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith, from Auckland University's Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences says: "It's funding, it's resources, it's confusion about who should be tested and people saying no I don't need to be tested."

Dr Goodyear-Smith is questioning why funds have been withheld or delayed.

"These practices have really been struggling, the money should flow," she says.

"They shouldn't have to beg and say why aren't you paying us, for something that costs practices to do.

"There hasn't been real recognition by the Ministry to say the GPs have been the front line in this battle."

The survey found in the lead up to the return of lockdown, 20 per cent of practices had concerns about getting funding for testing.

One survey comment said: "No appreciation from DHB, PHO, MOH, broken promises to support us financially, kept in the dark, constantly changing rules for testing, now Government is blaming us for not testing enough when it is their problem."

"There's not a consistent approach [nationwide]," says Dr Carter.

Dr Goodyear-Smith says more needs to be done.

"We really needed to pull out all the stops, to make sure that anyone who met the smallest criteria for testing could do so without any issues," she says.

Yesterday, Auckland's Greenwood Medical Centre tested around 100 people in its community.

Those getting testing told 1 NEWS they were pleased to be avoiding the queues at other testing stations.

It follows GPs being the first to uncover the new community cases this week.