Prompted by recent discussion in local media about the cost and accessibility to the area’s doctors’ clinics the Kaipara Medical Centre is wanting to inform the public further about its position as a Very Low Cost Access (VLCA) practice and what that means for the community.
What is a Very Low Cost Access practice?
A Very Low Cost Access practice is a term introduced by the Ministry of Health to signal a GP practice where half or more of its enrolled patients are deemed high-needs.
The practice agrees to keep fees at a low level in exchange for added government funding.
It’s also recognition of the extra effort involved in caring for those high needs populations and for keeping services accessible for those who can least afford to pay for healthcare.
How long as the Kaipara Medical Centre been a VLCA practice?
The centre qualified for this designation around 2007. Since then a standard doctor’s visit has been $17.50, with a recent rise in the last year to $18.
The Ministry of Health reimburses the clinic based on the number of patients enrolled.
Will this funding change?
The Minister of Health announced in June this year that the funding model may be changed, but no timeframe has been set for that. It could be years away. If it did change, it would likely see funding attached only to the high-needs patients rather the entire patient population of a VLCA practice.
Will that mean fees will go up?
If the government does change the way it funds Very Low Cost Access practices then the Kaipara Medical Centre would no longer be able to offer very low cost $18 doctor appointments to all of its patients. Only those high needs patients would qualify and the rest of its patients would likely face an increase. It doesn’t know what that increase might be, but says it would be based on what other practices in the area charge and what it believes is fair to all its patients. Fees for children under 13 years will remain free.
Does being a Very Low Cost Access practice impact on wait times?
No. Booked appointments should run close to schedule, but patients who walk-in without an appointment will be seen by a Duty Doctor after being seen first by a nurse who will assess those most in need. Sometimes there will be a wait for those patients, as they don’t have a booked appointment, but it is not related to the low fee structure.