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GP crisis continues in provincial NZ

GP crisis continues in provincial NZ

As the Government finally gets around to admitting there is a shortage of rural GPs, latest information from the Medical Council shows fewer GPs are working in most provincial areas with more of them overseas trained, says National’s Health spokesman, Tony Ryall.

The latest Medical Council Workforce Survey shows the number of GPs per 100,000 of population has plunged to 73 from 87 in the year 2000. *

“Strong indications are that this trend is continuing,” says Mr Ryall.

“The survey – based on the 2004 year - also finds that the proportion of overseas-trained doctors has risen.

“GP groups are united in their alarm at the growing workforce crisis.

“Patients in many parts of the country, particularly rural and provincial areas, cannot find a GP with whom to register their family. If you can’t register with a GP then you don’t qualify for cheaper visits.

“The problem is very real in places like Levin, Kapiti Coast, Timaru, Gisborne, and Waimate. In many provincial towns, GP services are incredibly stretched.

“National says what is needed is a much stronger effort to recruit and retain GPs.

“That means lifting the number of training places and making sure they do much of their training in rural and provincial areas.

“Research in Australia and Canada shows this sort of ‘rural immersion’ lifts the likelihood that doctors will come back and practise in rural and provincial areas,” says Mr Ryall.

National’s Rural Health spokeswoman, Jo Goodhew, says the Government only woke up to the shortage last week.

“Despite Health Minister Pete Hodgson telling a conference in July that National’s concerns about a GP crisis were ‘exaggerated’, and that he was sick of hearing about it, he has finally admitted there is a shortage.

“The Government is proposing an inadequately small number of new GP training places.

“What’s worse is that one medical school has run out of money to train doctors in rural areas,” says Mrs Goodhew.

* See Medical Council Workforce Survey by TLA for 2004 and 2000:

Pages 29 & 30 at: http://www.mcnz.org.nz/portals/0/publications/workforce%202000.pdf

Pages 11 & 12 at: http://www.mcnz.org.nz/portals/0/publications/workforce_2004.pdf

Ends

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