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Rural GP research outdated - O'Connor

1 December, 2006

Rural GP research outdated - O'Connor

Minister for Rural Affairs and Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor says a study of the workings of a rural general practice is too old and narrow to be useful to current debate.

The research, in the latest New Zealand Medical Journal, is based on one practice in one Southland town in the year 1999-2000.

"It was undertaken at the tail end of a decade of ideological, market-driven health policies foisted on rural New Zealanders by the National Party. An awful lot of positive things have happened in rural health since then," Mr O'Connor said.

Mr O'Connor said the Labour-led Government acknowledges that the rural health workforce in general faces particular challenges, particularly around staff retention, and was working hard and investing significant money to address the issue.

"I think across the board GPs are earning better money. There is still the pressure of 24-hour, seven-day-a-week cover that makes it difficult to attract people to these jobs, but we have directly funded support for them to ease that pressure," he said.

More than $100 million in specific support is currently directed to rural health services, Mr O'Connor said. Since 2005, this includes:

- $80 million rural adjuster to DHBs to compensate for higher costs of delivering health to rural communities,
- $4.23 million to pay for a rural bonus for 461 rural GPs,
- $8.4 million in rural workforce retention funding,
- Short-term locums for nearly 200 rural GPs,
- The recruitment of 19 overseas GPs to New Zealand rural practices,
-$5 million to fund a surgical bus,
-The government is looking closely at the level of provision of midwife services in rural areas.
-Greater opportunities for other rural health practitioners, such as nurses,
-$2 million for 15 additional GPs targeted for placement in rural practices, adding to recent funding for 30 rural GP trainee placements.

Mr O'Connor said he is pleased to acknowledge those doctors and medical organisations that are promoting the good things about rural general practice.

"Just this week the College of General Practitioners has released a video for medical students that highlights the challenges and rewards of being a GP. Students need to hear these positive stories."

ENDS

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