Story: Primary health care

Doctors and government

Doctors and government

The first Labour government (elected in 1935) wanted to give New Zealanders state-funded, universal access to health care. The plan was to pay doctors a fixed fee to cover all consultations. Almost all doctors, led by the British Medical Association, firmly opposed this scheme. This cartoon, published in 1939, refers to this conflict. The groom, representing the British Medical Association, is being forced down the aisle with his state medical-service bride by a gun-toting Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage. A compromise position was reached in 1941 whereby doctors were paid a fixed fee per consultation by the government and could charge their patient an additional fee on top of this – Savage's government was less successful than the cartoon predicted.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: A-313-2-001
Cartoon by I. McAnally

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Michael Belgrave, 'Primary health care - Improving access to health care, 1900s–1970s', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 27 September 2022)

Story by Michael Belgrave, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 4 Apr 2019