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GP training funding increase needed - Greens

12 December 2005

GP training funding increase needed - Greens

The Green Party is calling for the Government to immediately double the number of funded places for doctors wanting to train as General Practitioners and phase out the tertiary fees and student loan debts that are driving doctors off shore.

The Royal New Zealand College of GPs today revealed in the results of a survey that it has to turn away more than half of the applicants for the 54 Government-funded places on its training programme.

"It's a good sign that more doctors are expressing an interest in becoming GPs, but it is a terrible mistake to be missing this opportunity to increase the workforce due to lack of funded places, especially when we are experiencing a shortage that threatens to leave some New Zealanders without a doctor.

"The Government should also reintroduce scholarships for Maori and Pacific Island doctors, and each year adjust the number of funded places to meet demand - for training and for GPs."

The survey showed stress and long hours are key factors in discouraging doctors to become GPs and driving them to consider working overseas. This should finally lead to action being taken to address what has been a serious problem within the health system for a long time, Ms Kedgley says.

"We do not want our doctors leaving the country because they are so stressed and overworked here that they are being forced to make incredibly important decisions under severely compromised conditions."

A greater focus on prevention, and more involvement of nurses in preventative clinics, would lighten the burden on doctors. For example, nurse-run diabetes, respiratory and nutrition clinics could target at-risk groups, provide a career development opportunity for nurses and reduce the workload on doctors.

Despite being interest free, huge student loans are also likely to be driving graduates off shore where they can make more money.

"Until we stop our students getting into so much debt in the first place, no matter what else we do, there will be an incentive to go overseas where the best money is, Ms Kedgley says.

"We need to get rid of the enormous tertiary fees which are hurting our health system, and invest in a future where every New Zealander can access the medical care they need.

"The Green Party believes that it is only by providing sufficient funding for training, putting more resources into prevention, such as nurse-led clinics, and addressing student loans, that we will be able to meet New Zealand's future medical needs," Ms Kedgley says.

ENDS

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