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NZ Too Dependent on Overseas Trainied Doctors

New Zealand Too Dependent on Overseas Trainied Doctors

The shortage of doctors in New Zealand has made us too dependent on overseas trained doctors, says NZMA deputy chairman Dr Don Simmers.

A study in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reports that New Zealand employs the highest percentages of OTDs among the 30 member countries of the OECD.

“About 40% of doctors working in New Zealand are from overseas and this reliance is largely due to a shortage of doctors, especially in the rural sector. Coupled with this we have a high number of New Zealand’s graduates leaving to work overseas,” says Dr Simmers.

“There are disadvantages for this country’s medical services. There are problems such as immigrant doctors having difficulty adapting to cultural differences. There are also high training costs involved.”

“Working conditions in this country must be improved to increase the retention of graduates. Our own graduates will generally be counted among New Zealand’s best doctors and good doctors are more likely to deliver high quality, cost effective healthcare,” says Dr Simmers.

He says that working conditions will always be a major factor in determining how effective a health system is in holding onto its graduates.

“The work environment in New Zealand’s hospitals and communities is below first world standards. This needs to be rectified and doctors need to be valued more.”

Dr Simmers says that while an increased income for doctors is important, there are other measures that need to be looked at such as training.

“Our medical schools are now realising the need to adjust undergraduate training so that young doctors are better prepared to deliver healthcare in all of New Zealand’s varied communities and not only the major centres with tertiary hospitals. The health system also needs greater input into the undergraduate curriculum.”

“Efforts to produce the kind of medical graduate New Zealand’s health system needs will count for nothing if we continue to rely so heavily on OTDs.”

The NZMA would like to see the Government take a strategic approach to fully address medical workforce shortages.

“It was heartening that before the election both major parties acknowledged the problem was a top priority for our health system and promised to act,” says Dr Simmers.

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