A survey of medical graduates suggests crippling levels of debt are driving many overseas.
A paper published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, based on a 2008 survey of 370 fifth-year and sixth-year students, says more than 60% were planning to leave New Zealand within three years of graduating.
The paper's author, Dr William Perry, says the survey suggests debt is contributing to the workforce shortages plaguing the health system.
He says the voluntary bonding scheme, which offers student loan write-offs in return for working in high-need areas, has helped staff retention.
The survey also shows that 39% of the students planned to work as locums. The head of Auckland University's medical school, Des Gorman, says large numbers working as locums instead of taking permanent jobs hurts the health system.
Professor Gorman says it must be ensured that there's is no economic advantage in moonlighting, and that the conventional training programme is highly desirable and sought after.