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Government injects GP locums into rural practices

Government injects GP locums into rural practices

GP services in many of the country's hot spots have been guaranteed this summer, with over 45 rural practitioners benefiting from a government-funded locum scheme.

The scheme, run by the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network (RGPN), is aimed at providing short- term locum cover when and where it's most needed.

This summer it's seen placements at 33 rural practices located in 16 District Health Board regions. A total of 416 days of locum cover were provided between 15 December 2004 and 31 January 2005.

Rural Affairs and Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor said at this time of year rural practices were often at least one doctor down, at a time when populations swelled with holiday-makers.

"Many practices are situated in areas that are quiet for a good part of the year. Suddenly the population doubles or even trebles and the pressure on these practices to provide adequate cover is enormous. I am therefore very pleased that the vast majority of areas have cover".

RGPN Chief Executive Adrienne Harris said further relief was also coming in the form of long-term or permanent cover. "Placements have been confirmed in Gore, Te Anau, Kaikoura, Waihi Beach, Wellsford, Kerikeri, Doubtless Bay and Kaikohe. Permanent and long-term placements are also under negotiation in many other areas."

During 2004 the RGPN provided 197 rural GPs with 2,555 days locum cover, which made a huge difference to many rural communities throughout the country.

Mr O'Connor said the locum scheme was just one way the Labour-led government had committed to safeguarding rural health. In October, it announced $10.9m of annual funding to help rural areas retain GPs, nurses and other health workers.

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