Queenstown GP fees spoil visiting Mum’s trip

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A mum visiting Queenstown with her five-month-old baby has been caught out by huge price differences between two feuding medical centres. 

Sara Muller from Hawkes Bay is appalled at having to pay $55 for Queenstown Medical Centre to see her sick daughter Kieani last Wednesday morning. 

Muller’s local sister-in-law Teresa Murphy, who made the appointment, says QMC told her beforehand that $55 was their fee for a non-enrolled baby – and the only cheaper or free option was to go to Invercargill. 

Murphy was shocked to read last Thursday’s Mountain Scene article on GP fees which highlighted cheaper options did exist in Queenstown. 

Just to confirm it, Murphy phoned new GP centre Midtown Medical – which has been at war with QMC – and was quoted $15 for a non-enrolled baby, but by then it was too late. 

Muller – a mother of five on a single income – saved $200 spending money for her Queenstown holiday. She’d already paid $40 for pharmacy medicine for Kieani so QMC’s fee on top wiped out half that. 

Shelling out the $55 made her trip “more difficult and stressful than it needed to be”, Muller says. 

Murphy: “I was prepared to drive Sara to Cromwell or whatever but Invercargill was going to cost us the same or more on diesel.” 

An enrolled QMC patient, Murphy isn’t criticising Kieani’s medical treatment – “which was good” – and doesn’t question QMC’s right to charge full price to non-enrolled patients. 

Her complaint is that she was allegedly misled by being told the only cheaper or free option was Invercargill. 

“Queenstowners should let friends or family who come here know that you can spend $55 or $15 [on a GP]. 

“The choice is yours.” 

She suspects QMC didn’t disclose other options because of “the spirit of competition”. 

QMC boss Dr Richard Macharg says: “I don’t think there’s any doubt we need to review this situation and I’ll undertake to do that. 

“We’ll be taking steps to ensure our staff are informed of the correct way to deal with such [pricing] inquiries.” 

Until last week’s article, QMC staff weren’t aware of other medical centre fees, Macharg says. 

“We accept our services are currently of a higher cost to patients than those offered at other medical centres – but as I’ve indicated previously, this is entirely a quality issue. 

“We have however taken the opportunity to formulate appropriate responses to similar inquiries which our staff 
will be able to use in the future,” he says.