College of GPs welcomes additional funding, questions what this means for workforce

25 November 2021

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners welcomes the investment to increase testing, tracing, and support for managing COVID-19 in the community, but questions what this means for general practitioners working on the frontline and caring for COVID cases in the community.

College President and Wellington GP Dr Samantha Murton (pictured right) says, "This funding will go a long way in keeping New Zealanders safe and the spread of COVID-19 as low as possible, but there are still unanswered questions about how this will work in practice."

The Prime Minister has stated that the vast majority of those who get COVID-19 in the future will experience only mild to moderate symptoms and won’t require hospital-level care, and what matters is ensuring these people get the best care and support they can.

"GPs are primarily the first point of contact for community healthcare and will continue to provide a significant amount of this outside of hospital care, acting as a liaison between patients and other health services during the isolation and recovery time.

"With COVID making its way down the country and the inevitable increase of home isolation, it is concerning that today’s announcement lacked any mention of funding for GPs who are already stretched as they continue to test, swab, vaccinate, and provide BAU care to their non-COVID patients," says Dr Murton.

With over 4,000 people in the Auckland region, and over 130 in the Waikato region currently isolating at home, ensuring there is adequate, timely and appropriate access to this end-to-end support, which includes general practitioners, has never been more crucial.

The College's Medical Director Dr Bryan Betty says, "The College has been calling for a plan on how general practice should prepare for and respond to the management of COVID-19 in the community for months.

"The clarity provided by Minister Little saying GPs would be notified if a patient tests positive for COVID-19 and the 24-hour timeline for the patient to be contacted and assessed is welcomed and hopefully a step in the right direction for a more cohesive approach to managing COVID-19 in New Zealand."