Rural doctor shortage could lead to ‘domino effect’ for other workers

Rural Exchange 07/04/2018

Rural doctors are very much in demand, according to the General Practice Network.

Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa NZ (RHAANZ) CEO Michelle Thompson told Rural Exchange that the data is grim for rural health professionals across the country.

Ms Thompson cited that one-third of rural midwives are due to retire in the next 12 months on top of significant shortages of senior doctors and nurses.

RHAANZ chairman Dr Martin London pointed out that the health worker shortages can be especially detrimental to the many rural communities that rely heavily on tourism.

“You lose those services… and the whole thing can start to hollow out in a rather frightening way.”

He said that the shortage can contribute to “extreme stress” of the remaining healthcare workers.

Dr Martin estimates that 25 percent of rural practices have vacancies that they have been trying to fill for an extended period of time.

Ms Thompson suggested that improving rural communications could help make the regions more attractive to prospective medical professionals.

“Do you get high-speed broadband and will your cell phone work in these regions?” she asked rhetorically. “If that doesn’t happen that’s a huge detractor for the health professional…”

RHAANZ is to meet with Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor next week to discuss how the new Government will respond to the charity organisation’s funding proposal.

“We have to move away from being solely voluntary,” she told Rural Exchange. 

Watch the full interview with Michelle Thompson & Dr Martin London above.

Rural Exchange with Hamish McKay, Sarah Perriam and Richard Loe, 5-7am Saturday and Sunday on RadioLIVE with Carter’s Tyre Service. Click here for all the ways to watch and listen.