17 Aug 2010

Murchison hospital stays open, but GP fees reinstated

7:33 am on 17 August 2010

The small community of Murchison has won a fight to keep its hospital open but, as a trade-off, locals will have to pay for visits to the doctor for the first time in 50 years.

The Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board has agreed to maintain the hospital's six long-term care beds, but will re-instate GP fees.

Murchison, south of Nelson, is one of New Zealand's few remaining areas where GP visits have been free because it has been regarded as a special area of need.

Although the designation was lifted in 1993, Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board continued to cover the cost of doctor visits.

Residents will now have to pay GP fees to help cover some of the $100,000 annual deficit of running the hospital.

Murchison Community Council chairman Simon Blakemore says most residents will be happy to pay to see a doctor in return for keeping health services.