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Urgent Action Needed For General Practice

Urgent Action Needed For General Practice In Kaitaia

The New Zealand Medical Association and the Rural GP Network are calling on the Government to take urgent action to ensure that the people of the Kaitaia region have access to quality primary health care.

A health crisis is looming in Kaitaia, with the town's largest general practice planning to shut its doors because of a lack of doctors, which will put an unsustainable burden on other GPs in the region.

The NZMA and the Rural GP Network warn that many other regional and rural areas, such as those around Hokitika and Taumaranui, face similar difficulties.

Kaitaia's largest medical practice plans to close on 31 March next year because it cannot replace doctors who are leaving. The practice has four GPs, but at present only two are available to see patients. Dr Tom Young has been trying to retire for two years, but has been unable to find a replacement. Another doctor intends to move away because of the difficulties of practising in an isolated region. (Of the remaining two doctors, one is on maternity leave, and does not intend returning because of the work pressure, and the other is on long-term sick leave). The number of doctors working at Kaitaia Hospital is also decreasing.

Dr Tim Malloy, Chairman of the Rural GP Network, says doctors working in regional and rural areas face long hours, difficulty getting locums (so they can take holidays and education leave), and are frequently on-call at night-time. Rural GPs also undertake accident and emergency work, and often carry out secondary services (such as obstetrics and anaesthetics). When doctors leave and are not replaced, the remaining doctors face huge increases in their workloads and higher stress levels.

With a regional population of approximately 25,000, Kaitaia should have about 15 GPs, but will be left with five next year. They will not be able to meet the medical needs of their community, and will themselves be under unbearable pressure.

"Doctors who work in rural and regional areas face pressures in addition to those faced by city doctors," said NZMA Chairman Dr Pippa MacKay. "They are a vital part of small communities. The Government must recognise that special measures are needed to ensure people in these areas continue to have access to healthcare.

"Other countries, such as Canada, Australia and Britain, have government policies to ensure that rural areas have doctors available. New Zealand has no such workforce or recruitment policies in place."

"The Government needs to fast-track solutions for Kaitaia," Dr Malloy said. "It must also urgently develop a policy to ensure that all regional areas have continuity of general practice care. The people of regional New Zealand deserve nothing less. Incentives are needed to attract doctors to these areas."

The Rural GP Network and NZMA are willing to work with the Government to develop effective solutions.

CONTACT DETAILS ARE:

Dr Tim Malloy Chairman Rural GP Network Chairman Northern Rural General Practice Consortium (which supports all rural GPs in Northland) (025) 767 152 (09) 423 8086 (09) 431 4128

Dr Pippa MacKay (03) 351 6198 (wk) (025) 484 718 (mobile)

Shani Naylor Communications Manager (04) 472 4741 (wk) (025) 284 1081 (mobile)


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