Docs drop locals’ fees

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Queenstown Medical Centre is reducing fees for local patients over winter following a dose of bad publicity.

QMC came under national media fire earlier this month for charging a British tourist almost double what a New Zealand resident would pay for a medical consultation – because it was working from outdated Ministry of Health information.

The error has since been rectified.

From Monday, QMC will introduce a raft of “Beat the Recession” discounts at its Queenstown, Remarkables Park and Arrowtown surgeries – with some fees cut by as much as 50 per cent.

QMC boss Dr Richard Macharg admits the move was accelerated by criticism of their overcharging the British visitor in a One News TV report on May 2.

“We had been talking about reducing charges for local people for about six weeks beforehand,” Macharg says.

“This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to the publicity but it would be fair to say the TV One focus gave us a bit of a kick in the tail to do something now.”

QMC’s 12,500 registered patients will be offered discounts of between six and 10 per cent until the end of August, when the measures will be reviewed.

Community Services Card holders – available to people on low incomes – will have their medical, ACC and nursing fees slashed by half.

QMC-registered children under six will pay no more than $10, on any day of the year.

And all Wakatipu patients registered at other local surgeries will be offered 50 per cent discounts on after-hour fees, on proof they’re enrolled at the rival practice.

“We felt the people most likely to struggle in the present eco­­nomic situation are local people and we’d like to help with that,” Macharg says. “Queenstown in general gets a bad rap for being seen as expensive, which means we look expensive and that concerned us.” 

Fee schedule (excl Community Services Card holders)

Current fees for enrolled QMC patients
0-6 years $11
6-17 years $23
18 years and over $49.50

QMC winter fees (from Monday)
0-6 years $10 (no after- hours charges)
6-17 years $21
18 years and over $48

Enrolled patients at Wakatipu Medical Centre
0-6 years $12
6-17 years $30
18 years and over $45