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Survey confirms rural GP workforce crisis

FROM: Dr John Adams, NZMA Chairman

DATE: Friday, 9 November 2001

SUBJECT: Survey confirms rural GP workforce crisis

Action must be taken to improve the situation of rural general practitioners before their situation worsens, the New Zealand Medical Association says.

A survey of rural GPs, in today's New Zealand Medical Journal, has confirmed that rural communities are facing a crisis because of problems recruiting and retaining health professionals.

Problems include: * Lack of locum relief for holidays and professional development * Onerous on-call workload * Shortage of rural GPs

Only 48 percent of those surveyed said they would still be working in their current practice in five years time. The research, led by Wairoa GP Ron Janes, provides a snapshot of New Zealand rural general practice and is the first for 13 years.

"Doctors who work in rural and regional areas face pressures in addition to those faced by city doctors. These pressures lead to increased stress," said NZMA Chairman Dr John Adams. "In some places, GPs feel they cannot have a holiday or a weekend off.

"Rural GPs are a vital part of small communities, and the people in those communities deserve nothing less than continuity of general practice care.

"Unless the situation improves, no young doctors will want to move to rural areas because the work pressures will be too great."

Work is being undertaken in several areas to find solutions to the rural health workforce crisis. The NZMA has long urged the Government to urgently implement policies to ensure that all regional areas have continuity of health care, if necessary by offering incentives to attract doctors to these areas.

ENDS

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