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National Will Tackle Rural GP Crisis

29 May 2002

Rural areas need answers to their struggle to attract doctors to their areas and to keeping the doctors they have there, National Health Spokesperson Roger Sowry said today.

"The provision of rural health services is in crisis. There is a serious shortage of doctors in the Waikato, King Country, Manawatu, Canterbury and Southland.

"New Zealand is short of 100 full time equivalent GP positions and throughout the country there are many towns with well under Health Funding Authority guidelines of one GP to every 1400 people.

"Six Canterbury practices are either struggling to stay open or provide adequate services. Three Southland towns have together lost five GPs in the last six months and replacements are uncertain.

"Urgent action is needed to solve the short-term problem of retaining rural GPs and the long-term problems of retaining, recruiting and training rural GPs.

"National is committing $15 million to to rural health. Part of this will be a $6 million fund available to district health boards over three years to help them recruit GPs to rural areas where there is a demonstrated shortage.

"We will also provide $500,000 per year to fund two Rural Medical Training Centres - one based in the South Island and one based in the North Island. National will commit to maintaining the rural GP locum scheme, which we established to provide New Zealand-wide relief.

"National is also committed to maintaining provincial hospitals and rural medical centres so that 85% of the population lives within one hour of emergency medical services. We will encourage programmes to expand the access to other rural health services.

"District health boards are collectively facing a deficit of $200 million in 2002-03 and because of this having to make cuts of $120 million. The Government is allowing rural health services to run down in the same way. National has the solutions to get health services back into rural areas," Mr Sowry said.


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