15 Aug 2012

Junior doctors' union welcomes bond scheme review

1:53 pm on 15 August 2012

The union representing junior hospital doctors hopes a review of the Government's health bonding scheme will help to restore its credibility.

Health Workforce New Zealand is reviewing the voluntary scheme, which was introduced to encourage newly graduated doctors, as well as midwives and some specialists, to work in rural practices and other hard to staff areas, in return for paying some of their student loans.

Since the programme began in 2009, more than 1800 nurses and 260 doctors have applied.

But Resident Doctors Association national secretary Deborah Powell says few of the junior doctors it represents have so far received any payment.

She said of 100 people who joined the programme in 2009 and should have been paid out, only 17 have received payment, while six people have been declined payment.

"I think that there are some problems with the administration of the scheme," she said.

"I think that they changed the rules as they went along so some of our people who in good faith joined up three years ago have found that it's been bit of shifting sands and they're no longer eligible."

The Rural General Practice Network says the bonding scheme isn't meeting its expectations either, in solving staffing shortages in rural areas.

It says figures from Health Workforce New Zealand, which administers the programme, show only six general practice registrars are in the programme

Network chair Dr Jo Scott-Jones hopes the review will also look at extending the scheme to include rural primary care nurses, who are not eligible at present