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Doctor allegedly signed up ineligible backpackers to get health subsidies

The Auckland GP is alleged to have falsely registered more than 2600 patients for Government-funded healthcare. Photo / NZME A doctor who...

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The Auckland GP is alleged to have falsely registered more than 2600 patients for Government-funded healthcare. Photo / NZME

A doctor who signed up departing British and Australian backpackers for long-term healthcare subsidies at her clinic has been accused of taking more than $420,000 in funding by falsely claiming the 2618 patients were eligible.

The GP, who faces a charge of professional misconduct before a Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, applied for the funding through an Auckland Primary Health Organisation [PHO] known as ProCare.

Capitation funding is based on the enrolled PHO population with PHOs and their general practices paid according to the number of people enrolled, not the number of times a provider sees patients.

At the tribunal hearing today, a former ProCare worker detailed how the Auckland doctor would deliberately send the funding applications at the last minute, before the cut-off time.

“She did this so that the team wouldn’t have time to check the eligibility of her patients,” the former worker said.

“We trusted the practitioners and clinic directors to decide whether patients were eligible for funding.”

The doctor’s name is suppressed along with the names of witnesses in the case.

ProCare could accept or reject the applications and then pass the information on to the Ministry of Health to receive the funding.

The doctor was said to be constantly contacting ProCare to query why her patients may have been rejected.

“She was always concerned about what funding she was getting,” the former ProCare worker said.

The GP was charged in August 2019 for the applications made between 2002-2011.

The doctor, who was the sole director and shareholder of the clinic, allegedly filled in false information in order for the patient to be eligible for the funding, according to details of the charge.

To be eligible for the funding, the patients needed to be living in New Zealand and consent to the clinic to have it as their primary healthcare provider.

The majority of patients applying for the funding through the clinic were travellers from the United Kingdom and Australia.

“If the application was successful, the patient would get funded healthcare in New Zealand for three years,” the worker said.

“The doctor was enrolling patients who were about to travel back to their home country.”

Out of the 2618 non-eligible patients who were entered as eligible, 194 had not consented to the clinic becoming their primary healthcare provider.

A former receptionist at the clinic told the tribunal how the doctor was very secretive with the applications.

“She was the only person who was permitted to create the registers and send them through to ProCare,” the receptionist said.

“I didn’t have any training on how ProCare funding worked.”

The former receptionist also told the tribunal how she worked as a clinical assistant, taking patients’ height, weight, urine samples and she was even trained to take blood, despite having no medical degree or professional training.

The tribunal is set to hear from more witnesses tomorrow.

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