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Keeping our newest medical graduates at home

Keeping our newest medical graduates at home

Incentive based debt relief proposed as means of slowing the exodus

The New Zealand Medical Students’ Association (NZMSA) is calling for a focus on the retention of medical graduates to improve the current medical workforce crisis. The introduction of an incentive based debt relief scheme is being proposed to address poor retention rates among new graduates.

The alarming number of medical students who chose to leave New Zealand immediately after graduation last year has been highlighted during recent industrial action. “This exodus of our newest doctors is a real cause for concern” says Ms Anna Dare, President of the NZMSA.

While many factors impact on doctor migration, high student debt remains a key driver for new graduates. “The average New Zealand medical student will graduate with $65 000-$100 000 worth of debt. When faced with the realities of paying these amounts back, many young doctors are looking to Australia.” This has serious long term affects on retaining doctors in New Zealand.

“When young doctors leave New Zealand in their formative years after graduation, they are less likely to return. We need to give our final year medical students a reason to stay” Ms Dare says.

The NZMSA’s policy advocates for an ‘Incentive based debt relief’ scheme which would provide new graduates with loan write offs in return for working in an area of need within New Zealand. “It acknowledges six years of hard study and rewards you for making the choice to stay in New Zealand” Ms Dare says. “Importantly, it is also an investment in the long term future of our medical workforce.”

In recent weeks a number of commentators have suggested that a ‘bonding’ scheme be introduced to address the workforce crisis. The NZMSA believes incentive based debt relief is preferable to bonding schemes which bind students during their early medical training to prolonged periods of service upon graduation. Ms Dare points out that “New Zealanders want doctors that choose to work in their communities; most bonding schemes force doctors to work in an area.” Ultimately, this has implications for the care and level of commitment they are willing to provide. “Incentive schemes work because they encourage graduates to see New Zealand as a viable place to want to practise in.”


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