2 Oct 2008

Council advocates grant to keep doctors in NZ

7:04 pm on 2 October 2008

The head of the Medical Council says a grant for doctors who work in New Zealand for several years after graduating may help to keep them here.

The comment follows two reports this week that have drawn attention to doctor shortages and the number who leave within three years of graduating.

Concerns outlined in the Medical Training Board's first report for the Government, released on Tuesday, are underscored in the latest medical workforce survey results from the Medical Council, issued on Thursday.

It points to New Zealand's ongoing heavy reliance on overseas trained doctors, and agrees with the board that more must be done to retain locally trained doctors.

Medical Council chairperson John Campbell says a grant rewarding those who give continuous service in the public system for a set period may help.

Also needed, he says, is greater investment to boost medical student places and improve their educational programme in the years immediately after graduation.

Many regions short of doctors

Many areas in New Zealand continue to experience a shortage of family doctors, according to the latest findings of the Medical Council's annual medical workforce survey.

It shows there is one doctor working in New Zealand for every 334 people. That equates to three doctors for every 1000 people, below the latest published average for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Districts where it is hard to find a GP include Waikato, Opotiki, Central Hawke's Bay, Horowhenua, Westland, Waimate and Southland.

The Medical Council says it backs the need to train more doctors and hang on better to overseas trained doctors.

Meanwhile, the West Coast District Health Board says people in Buller will receive better continuity of care following the appointment of three new doctors to take over from locum, or temporary doctors.

One of the new doctors has a permanent contract at medical practices at Karamea and Ngakawau. The other two have shorter contracts at Reefton and Buller.

National's hospice promise

The National Party says it will redirect millions of dollars a year, of existing health funding, towards hospice care.

Party leader John Key says demand for hospice care will increase as the population ages, and more funding will be needed to expand care and services.

He says hospices rely greatly on fundraising to help meet their costs.

Mr Key says a National government would give hospices an extra $15 million a year, out of money already allocated to health in the 2008 budget.