Covid-19: $250 fee for health clinic Covid test scared me

When Covid cases are around, the public responds diligently with a wave of testing.  The message for free, accessible testing, in all locations, must be clear and accurate.

Ricky Wilson / Stuff

When Covid cases are around, the public responds diligently with a wave of testing. The message for free, accessible testing, in all locations, must be clear and accurate.

OPINION: Monday I was told that if I wanted a Covid-19 test I would have to pay $250.

I had gone to the emergency doctor at my medical center with a fever and dizziness.

After I was poked and prodded and had a blood test, a doctor suggested I might be getting a virus. She didn’t mention the 2019-21 virus du jour, but I was eager to rule out Covid.

I left for the drive-in testing center in Palmerston North, but it was closed, so I called the medical center I had just left to book a test. The receptionist asked if I had a cough, runny nose or sore throat.

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I didn’t, so that would be $250, thank you very much. Will you come again?

I was doubly vaccinated and met social distancing requirements, but I didn’t think it was worth the risk, especially since there was still a slim chance I could have picked it up from the dozens of strangers I interviewed, an anti- vax protest in Whanganui I reported from, or from personal trips to the capital.

The looming traffic light system casts a multicolored glow across the country. When the clock strikes green, the crowds will return and the number of Covid-19 cases is likely to increase. We’re already seeing a stranger popping up in the regions.


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces that the country will transition to the new Covid-19 Protection Framework, also known as the traffic light system, on Thursday, December 2 from 11:59 pm.

Personal vigilance will be more important than ever, especially for those who work with vulnerable people, including journalists.

That’s why I was so surprised when the receptionist was adamant that I had to pay unless I had one of the three most common symptoms.

I explained that I had been to their clinic just an hour earlier and had symptoms of Covid-19, albeit without the most common. She again reiterated the cost of my, and that of my community, peace of mind – $250.

I eschewed the attack and piled up at home until the free drive-through test station opened the next morning.

A cautionary call to Healthline informed a nurse that I was not the first person to call with a similar story that day, but in a different part of the country.

She said anyone with Covid-19 symptoms, regardless of what symptoms they were, should not be charged for a Covid-19 test. This was later confirmed by a spokesman for the Ministry of Health.

People falsely charged for Covid-19 testing caused a stir in July last year, with some saying the rules were unclear.


Director General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield says three of the 15 people whose deaths were related to Covid-19 had been fully vaccinated.

The manager of the practice who tried to sue me, who I won’t name as they are not the only clinic to have made this mistake, said the amount of information coming out of the Ministry of Health was huge and sometimes hard to keep up with. good.

He said that in my case it amounted to human error.

Jacqui Kidd, the deputy chief of clinical sciences at Auckland University of Technology, said it “surprises me” to learn that such confusion was still evident at the end of 2021, and our most vulnerable communities were the ones who would suffer from such misunderstandings.

“The people most at risk are those with co-morbidities, and those are the people who spend huge amounts on medical costs…sometimes up to three times a week on top of prescriptions.”

She said it meant people who falsely filed charges for erring on the side of caution could then choose not to pass the test.

“One of the biggest barriers to primary health care is that they owe the doctor money. Some doctors are great… but if the receptionist when booking an appointment says, ‘Oh, you have to pay this amount that you owe us when you come in,’ then maybe they don’t have an appointment.’

As more cases of Covid-19 emerge, there shouldn’t be a barrier to getting people tested and staying home until they have the results, even if vaccination reduces the impact of the virus.

The Main St Covid-19 test station in Palmerston North.


The Main St Covid-19 test station in Palmerston North.

I asked the ministry if it was aware of symptomatic people being charged for a test, what it did to make sure it didn’t happen, and what the story was that someone had been wrongly charged.

The spokesperson only said it “has not been a widespread problem”.

The cost of going undetected and spreading Covid-19 to the more than 300,000 New Zealanders who are unvaccinated, or to vulnerable people who may still get sick even if they are vaccinated, is too expensive to even afford. 1 percent risk of uncertainty and misinterpretation among the health care providers we rely on to do well.

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