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Taumarunui situation highlights GP crisis

Taumarunui situation highlights general practice crisis

The hunger-striking doctor and nurses in Taumarunui highlight the stress facing primary care in rural and semi-rural areas of New Zealand, says the New Zealand Medical Association.

"While we cannot comment in detail about Dr Suresh Vatsyayann's hunger strike, we can say that Taumarunui is not alone in facing an extremely difficult situation for health professionals," said NZMA Chairman Dr John Adams.

"The rural GP workforce has been in crisis for some time. There is a drastic shortage of GPs in rural areas, and for many rural communities it is almost impossible to recruit and retain health professionals.

"People who live in rural communities and small towns deserve continuity of general practice care, and this includes access to care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, in small communities this is very difficult and GPs who cannot share their load face burn-out."

There are no easy answers to the Taumarunui situation, Dr Adams said.

"Obviously Waikato DHB wants to ensure 24/7 care, but this requires adequate staff to be available to provide continuity of care. If Taumarunui's Community Kokiri Trust cannot provide 24/7 care, then other GPs in the community will have to bear the burden."

Other problems in rural areas include: * The lack of locum relief for holidays and professional development * The onerous on-call workload

"We are pleased that the Government has started implementing policies which will help medical practitioners in rural areas, and which will benefit rural communities.

"The NZMA has long urged the Government to urgently implement policies to ensure that all regional areas have continuity of health care, if necessary by offering incentives to attract doctors to these areas," Dr Adams concluded.

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