General practices fearful they may have to shut up shop as the coronavirus lockdown dries up their cashflow have been granted extra funding by the Ministry of Health.

An immediate injection of $15 million is being shared among New Zealand's GPs and another $10m is expected each week for four weeks.

Practices have warned they are at risk of closing as the lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19 slashes their income.

Many have spent large amounts preparing for the virus, from hiring portacabins to screen patients and buying protective gear to the IT costs of setting up virtual consulting.


But once the country went into lockdown on Thursday income has dived by as much as 50 per cent as the number of appointments - such as routine check-ups - fall drastically.

Evidence from GPs was presented on Sunday at an urgent meeting between the General Practice Leaders' Forum and the Ministry of Health.

New Zealand Medical Association and GPLF chairwoman Dr Kate Baddock said the 18-person video conference, which included Ministry of Health deputy director-general Keriana Brooking and lead DHB chief executive Nick Chamberlain, had been fruitful and the ministry was "receptive".

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An immediate injection of $15 million had been given to general practices across New Zealand, to be shared out on a per-registered patient basis.

Another $10 million was set to be provided each week for the duration of the four-week lockdown imposed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The NZMA had collected over 100 responses from practices around the country as "solid evidence from general practices of the dire financing straits many GPs are experiencing", Baddock said.

"General practice is very much a cashflow business and with everybody being on the phone and a deliberate move away from face to face consulting there has been a huge reduction in cashflow."


That had jeopardised the sustainability of GPs, which were an essential frontline service, she said.

The money was being sent to public health organisations on Tuesday, Baddock said, and they would be handing it on to their general practices today.

Ministry of Health director-general Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed at his daily media briefing on Tuesday that there was a plan to help struggling GPs.

"There is a very active piece of work to both quantify where practices are struggling financially and to help provide support, so that work is well under way."

The first payment for GPs had already been sent to help them with their Covid-19 response, Bloomfield said. "There is further work on sustainability that will be landing this week."

Baddock told the Herald if the lockdown continued past four weeks she expected there would be further discussion about ongoing support.

After the lockdown some of those costs would stay higher than normal.

Staff in self-isolation would still need to be paid, and high-risk staff such as those over 70 or with diabetes would need to be stood down or taken off the front line.

"The IT costs of going virtual, that's probably a whole new way of working going forward. It's hard to mesh that with the more regular face-to-face consultations."

Baddock also expected rural general practices - which faced unique challenges - to receive extra support in some form. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website