Cost jump leaves patients out in cold
Thousands of new high-needs patients will have to register at Health New Lynn before a funding botch-up is corrected.
A few months after it started the health clinic lost access to low cost funding due to a misunderstanding with the Ministry of Health.
It resulted in large fee increases for thousands of adult patients last month who had been transferred from New Lynn Medical Centre.
Health New Lynn was formed in April when the Golf Road Medical Centre, New Lynn Medical Centre, Titirangi Family Health Care and Kinross Family Medical Centre merged. Before the merger, 5000 New Lynn Medical Centre patients - including 2000 high-needs clients - paid $17.50 for a doctors visit.
Fees have increased to $40 for its adult patients on September 15 due to the merged clinics not having 50 per cent high-needs patients.
Chief executive Greg Clarke says there are measures in place to keep fees low for high-need patients who qualify for Support For An Access Practice funding fee of $19.90.
"We've done our best to put that money to where it needs to be and we're trying to do what's best for our patients," he says.
High-needs patients are deemed as Maori and Pacific people as well as residents living in low socioeconomic areas.
Mr Clarke says there has been a slight decrease in patients coming through its doors since fees increased but says it could be put down to the end of the flu season.
National MP Tim Groser will discuss the issue with the Health Ministry when he returns to New Zealand after being away on business.
His spokeswoman says the combined practice is receiving the same amount of funding as the four individual clinics did before the merger.
"It is up to practice what they charge, they are private businesses," she says.
Mr Cunliffe says the low cost funding removal was a shock for the practice.
"It will mean real pressure on some families' budgets. It's been a real confusing process for patients and the practice and clearer communication from the district health board would have been better."
Health board primary care funding and development manager Tim Wood says the funding is set by the health ministry and the board was "not privy to the financial assumption the three practices made when planning the merger".
Mr Cunliffe says concerned patients can call his office on 837 3064.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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