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Workforce training cash surplus should be re-directed

May 17, 2013

Workforce training cash surplus should be re-directed

A $10 million under spend in health workforce training coupled with a $2 million top-up to training announced in the Budget, clearly indicates that more incentives could be put into attracting doctors and nurses to hard to staff rural areas, says New Zealand Rural General Practice Network chairman Dr Jo Scott-Jones.

“I understand that the under spend in training is due in part to a lower than expected uptake of the Voluntary Bonding Scheme (VBS). If this is the case then why not put more resources into incentives to attract young doctors and nurses to rural practices that find it difficult or impossible to attract staff,” says Dr Scott-Jones.

“With permanent vacancies across 25 percent of rural practices nationwide, this would seem a logical direction to take to attract young doctors to these areas,” says Dr Scott-Jones.

It is also disappointing that there is no specific funding for rural mental health support in the Budget, he says.

A recent review of the VBS revealed glaring gaps in its outcomes for rural, namely that there is not enough emphasis on the placement of young GPs or primary care nurses into rural areas.

The focus of the VBS on large DHB areas, which include urban centres such as Rotorua, Napier, Hastings, Gisborne, New Plymouth and Palmerston North meant it was unlikely the scheme would have any significant effect on rural general practice in its present form, says Dr Scott-Jones.

The Network has also made repeated requests for primary care nursing to be added to the list of hard to staff nursing specialties under the VBS.

Introduced in 2008, the VBS is a Government-driven payment scheme to reward medical, midwifery and nursing graduates who agree to work in hard-to-staff communities and/or specialties and medical physicist and radiation therapist graduates who remain in New Zealand after their university studies.

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