Local shocked over Dr charge

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A Queenstowner who took to social media upset about the cost and booking process at Queenstown Medical Centre has prompted a horde of others to share similar reviews.

Stephen Tarawa’s been living in Queenstown about 14 years but was shocked when he phoned QMC to be told it would cost $160 to see a doctor – and he had to re-enrol.

Tarawa, who’s of Maori descent, says the receptionist told him to fill out enrolment paperwork and provide a passport as “proof of citizenship”.

He’s baffled why his details weren’t on file given he visited the practice about four months earlier – when he was also asked to re-enrol, despite, he says, being enrolled with QMC since 2013.

“We have to explain our situation every time – I am a local here, so why do I have to go through this every time I book an appointment?”

He also says he “couldn’t believe the price” and felt like that was the focus of the conversation, instead of his need to see a doctor.

Tarawa’s since signed up to a different practice, but took to social media to see if others had similar experiences at QMC – his Queenstown Trading post sparked about 140 comments from others, some of whom said they had.

QMC interim CEO Dr Richard Macharg’s cautious about com-menting on individual situations due to patient privacy, but says staff “understand why people get upset”.

He says enrolling for subsidised doctor visits is complex – particularly in a town dominated by tourists and seasonal workers.

NZ citizens who provide a passport, or their birth certificate and driver’s licence, or those eligible to enrol, get cheaper GP visits because the government covers some of the cost.

“In Queenstown, the issue with passports is important because people aren’t eligible for the government subsidy for a consultation if they don’t have a work visa amounting to two consecutive years,” Macharg says.

People are only asked to re-enrol if they haven’t been to the practice in three years.

While a lot of locals register at a different medical practice and turn up to QMC because of its extended opening hours, “a patient can’t just turn up to any practice and access the subsidy”, he says.

“They have to be enrolled with a specific GP in order for that practice to receive the government subsidy to be passed on to the patient.” The government sets the rules and general practices are audited against them.

“A lot of our receptionists’ time is taken up asking people to produce passports or visa documentation, which of course isn’t really their job, but that’s how it is.”

Macharg is unsure why Tarawa was quoted $160.

Consultation for enrolled patients costs $60, it’s $100 for a NZ resident and $180 for a tourist.

At weekends there’s an extra $21 charge for enrolled patients or $45 for those who aren’t enrolled.

miranda.cook@scene.co.nz