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Desperate Need to Address GP Crisis

12 December 2005

Maori Party Signals Desperate Need to Address GP Crisis

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

"The finding that Maori GPs are significantly under-represented when compared to their overall representation in New Zealand's total population is another factor of the GP crisis that needs urgent attention" said Tariana Turia today, in response to the report released today from the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.

The report revealed that there are "low numbers of Maori (2%) and Pasifika (1.2%) GPs in the current workforce, which indicates the need for targeted workforce development in this area. In particular, there is a need to increase recruitment of Maori and Pasifika students into medical schools " (p21).

"This finding makes for depressing reading in light of the UN Special Rapporteurs' concern over the "surprising differential" of ten years in life expectancy between Maori and Pakeha" and "the lower health levels of Maori".

"Set against the Special Rapporteurs' conclusions that the gap between Maori and non-Maori is in fact increasing, the fact that the Labour Government chose to withdraw their support from scholarships to encourage Maori and Pacific Islands doctors into general practice is of course extremely worrying".

"The Maori Party believes that if we are serious about addressing primary health care in Aotearoa, these scholarships must be reinstated as a sensible approach towards addressing need" said Mrs Turia.

"The Parliament needs to be able to embrace a brave and forward looking strategy to address the worsening GP shortage" said Mrs Turia. "I welcomed the proposal from the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists to ask the Government to encourage District Health Boards to consider directly employing salaried GPs as one such initiative".

"All players must be involved in devising an urgent recruitment and retention strategy" said Mrs Turia. "The District Health Boards, the Government, the Medical Council should be promoting GPs as a speciality focus, the College of GPs, and indeed Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa, the Maori Medical Practitioners Association of Aotearoa will be an essential stakeholder in addressing Maori GP shortage".

"Not only are Maori and Pacific GPs under-represented in the workforce, but those that are employed often face additional responsibilities given the higher health needs of the populations they are servicing" said Mrs Turia.

"PHO contracts need to recognise that Maori and Pasifika populations incur an increasing health risk. Support mechanisms need to be put in place to act as real incentives for retention of a specialist workforce".

ENDS

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