21 May 2012

Assessment of rural health bonding scheme welcomed

6:36 am on 21 May 2012

The Rural General Practice Network supports a call to find out if a Government scheme designed to attract healthcare workers to rural areas - is working.

The Labour Party wants the Government to be more accountable for the Voluntary Bonding Scheme, which was set up in a bid to improve health services in rural areas.

It was introduced in 2009 and offers graduates debt write-offs or cash incentives in return for working in hard-to-staff areas for three to five years.

Labour rural affairs spokesperson Damien O'Connor wants separate statistics for the scheme so that rural areas are not lumped together with 'hard-to-staff' areas.

Rural GP Network chairperson Jo Scott-Jones says that's an important distinction to make.

He says hard to staff areas like those covered by boards in Northland, the West Coast and Taranaki include quite large tracts of rural areas.

Dr Scott-Jones says general practice, for example, is supportive of the voluntary bonding scheme and it would be interesting to see the effectiveness of that and to find out whether people stay beyond the three to five years that they are required to.

About 1400 graduates have signed up to the scheme with another 350 places opening this year.

The Labour Party says a similar rural bonding scheme for veterinarian graduates also needs to be tested for its effectiveness.