Southern general practices, like doctor surgeries country-wide, are enduring financial hardship due to the Covid-19 pandemic, WellSouth chairman Doug Hill says.

"We think it is varied. All of us are hurting but to different degrees," Hill said.

"In the first few weeks [of alert level 4] there was very little money going across the counter of general practices, although as time goes by I think things are starting to pick up a little bit.

"I am reluctant to overplay the financials because while, yes, we are hurting, there are people who are hurting a lot more than us."

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Earlier this week Health Minister David Clark said discussions continued between the Ministry of Health and the primary care sector about how to cover additional costs for GPs resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

WellSouth regularly consulted leading GPs from across the southern region, and while doctors were struggling to cope, their morale was high, Hill said.

"As a rule, GPs are extremely proud of what they have achieved.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

"We have made changes in general practice which would have taken us years but in some cases we have had to implement them within hours.

"They have built new capacities into their practices.

"They are using new digital technology, and GPs are already planning for the next phase and how they can continue to enhance care for patients."

However, those patients needed to overcome any reluctance to see their doctors, Hill said.

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"We know that there are patients who have been sitting at home waiting to have something seen who have delayed their treatment and hence their diagnosis.

"A delayed diagnosis is never a good diagnosis. The sooner we can see people the better."

Fewer patients had seen their GPs in the past month so the number of referrals to hospitals would have been fewer.

All patients who have needed hospital-level care have been seen, but it would be a big task to catch up on postponed procedures, Hill said.

"The hospital will have lost four to six weeks of work and that is work that needs to be done.

"We are going to have to work together, both primary and secondary care, to work through that."

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As well as treating their own patients, GPs have played a crucial role in Covid-19 testing, Hill said. GPs have carried out about half of all Covid-19 testing in the South.