Fears loom that some medical centres could close temporarily, with one top doctor warning more support is needed from Government to combat Covid-19.

It comes after four people in New Zealand have been diagnosed with coronavirus - all are either in self-isolation or receiving hospital care.

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) is calling on the Government to prioritise support for general practices and healthcare workers in the front line against the potentially deadly virus.

Dr Jan White, chair of the NZMA's general practitioner council, told the Herald that if a medical centre gets infected or there are not enough staff to run the practice safety then they will be forced to close.


"There's a big concern for our patients, especially those with chronic diseases who suddenly can't get the help that they need if we do have to shut down."

The Mt Eden doctor said many medical centres were struggling to keep up with the demand and were desperate for Government funding to help relieve the strain.

Each consultation to test for coronavirus was costing medical centres between $250 and $360 to cover prolonged staff time, equipment and extra cleaning of the room, White said.

"A 10-minute consultation is not sufficient. For example one doctor I know spent 35 minutes on the phone to the Healthline about a swab result query and then a further 25 minutes with a patient being tested."

Meanwhile, waiting times for other patients were increasing, White said.

Coronavirus testing: Five questions answered
Coronavirus in NZ: Infected woman says her husband has also tested positive
Fourth coronavirus patient was at Tool rock concert with thousands of Aucklanders
Coronavirus case: 'Terrified' grandmother worried she's infected others

She said personal protective equipment should be delivered to all medical centres but instead they were having to pay for their own.

"The financial burden on medical clinics is a huge concern and needs to be addressed.


"We know that this is new and unexplored territory for all of us but we do need some idea about how we are going to manage this."

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the Ministry of Health had gone to great lengths to ensure all district health boards and medical centres had personal protective equipment.

"I feel very confident in ensuring that."

The Herald has sought further comment from the Ministry of Health and was awaiting a response.