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Government Boosts Investment In Rural Doctors

Rural communities and their doctors are to get extra relief from a $3 million package to recruit and attract GPs to rural areas, Prime Minister Jenny Shipley announced today in Kerikeri.

"This Government has been working closely with people on the ground in rural areas to find solutions to some of the unique problems we have in attracting GPs to some isolated regions.

"The four new initiatives complement a range of others already in place to strengthen health services in rural communities. They will help ease recruitment and retention problems caused by arduous on-call arrangements, poor access to relief arrangements and professional isolation.

"Our aim is to support rural doctors who are severely overworked, make rural assignments more attractive to doctors, and ultimately give rural families certainty about their health services."

Rural Primary Care Support Scheme
The rural primary care support scheme extends the guaranteed minimum income arrangements to a further 10 practices so that the practices are sustainable with improved cover arrangements. Extra support for practice is also included in the scheme.

Rural Locum Support Scheme
Establishing a targeted rural locum scheme where locum agencies provide relief to GPs and cover to manage 'hot spots' for example when they need breaks or are sick to ensure service coverage and stability. The scheme is designed so that suitable locums can be recruited to support GPs and to provide a consistent service to patients.

Telemedicine at Westport
Allows supervision from a distance of doctors who are not vocationally registered, and breaks down professional isolation. The equipment will be in place and operational by the end of the calendar year.

Rural Hospital Training Scheme
From next year, the University of Otago plans to trial a new training programme to provide a formal nationally recognised qualification for medical practitioners who are generalist rural hospital doctors.

"These are short term and long term solutions to make certain that rural New Zealanders get the primary health services they need.

"National is a party with strong rural representation, and I am proud that we are able to strengthen our health commitment to rural New Zealanders."

Today's announcement complements government initiatives already underway in rural health:

Telemedicine links – including links between Dunedin, Invercargill, Gore, Balclutha, Queenstown, Clyde and Oamaru.

Rural Health Director – appointed to improve coordination in health services in rural areas in the South Island. A North Island Rural Health Director will be appointed shortly.

Overseas doctors – new measures announced yesterday aim to lift the skills and qualifications of overseas trained doctors to reduce doctor shortages.

Rural Hospital Premium – extra funding to take into account the unique circumstances of rural hospitals.

PRIME scheme - to give GPs and nurses extra training and equipment to attend medical emergencies in rural areas.

Better Targeted Rural Bonus - The Health Funding Authority, the New Zealand Medical Association and the Rural General Practitioners Network have recently agreed a better targeted scheme to distribute the rural bonus to 350 GPs.

Rural Pharmacy Allowance – paid to more remote pharmacies to ensure that rural people continue to have access to prescription medicines.

Rural Nursing – rural nurses are providing primary care in some areas where the nearest GP may be some distance away.

Teleradiology – giving rural areas access to radiology services.

Primary Care Strategy - development of the strategy is underway and it will be released by the end of the month.

ENDS

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