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Rural health professional shortage in spotlight

28 March 2008

 

Rural health professional shortage in the spotlight

 

The growing shortage of rural health professionals in New Zealand will be addressed at a conference held by the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network tomorrow.

Almost 300 rural GPs, nurses, practice managers and industry delegates will attend the annual conference in Christchurch from Friday to Sunday.

“The theme for our conference this year is Working Together, Doing it Better,” said Network Chair, Dr Tim Malloy. “It’s an opportunity for our members to share information and address some of the key issues faced by the rural general practice workforce.”

Dr Malloy said an area of concern is the provision of after-hours on-call care.

“It’s important that we look at ways to resolve the issue of on-call workload if we are ever to attract newly trained general practitioners and nurses to work in rural practice," he said.

Conference delegates will attend a series of workshops and seminars to discuss a number of issues, including ways to improve access to healthcare in rural areas, the role of nursing in rural practice, and the benefits of working together in multidisciplinary teams.

“As with a lot of New Zealand professionals, our health practitioners are being lured overseas by the promise of better pay and better working conditions,” said Dr Malloy. “Conference is a good way for all of us to look at how we can retain the existing workforce, recruit new entrants and set realistic workloads.”

Delegates will also participate in clinical and practical workshops in an array of topics, including diagnosing chest pain, helping parents make informed choices about immunisation, obesity surgery and the avian influenza virus.

A seminar on considerations for optimum rural health workforce will be presented by keynote speaker Dr James Rourke, the Dean of Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at Canada’s Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Dr Rourke was the chair of the World Organisation of Family Doctors Working Party in Rural Practice. He was involved in developing a joint World Organisation of Family Doctors/World Health Organisation project on Health for All Rural People.

“Dr Rourke has a long-standing interest in rural medicine and medical education and is a recognised leader at provincial, national and international levels. We are delighted that he has agreed to speak to our members,” said Dr Malloy.

The Network is New Zealand’s only nationwide membership-based organisation to represent the interests of rural general practice and, in particular, rural health workforce issues.

The Network was established by a small group of enthusiastic rural general practitioners wishing to provide a support network for GP colleagues. Today the Network administers two recruitment services, NZLocums and NZ Medics.  NZLocums is funded by Government to ensure rural communities have access to quality health care. The service helps rural practitioners to recruit locums and secure long-term or permanent appointments. NZ Medics provides medical and specialist services to urban general practices and secondary services.
 

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