The New Zealand Rural General Practice Network welcomed government acknowledgment that the current rural health workforce is not sustainable and action is required to avoid a rural health crisis.
The NZRGPN is the membership-based organisation representing New Zealand’s rural medical practices.
“We’re pleased with the clear recognition that there are significant challenges facing the delivery of rural healthcare in New Zealand and that an integrated solution is required to build a sustainable health workforce,” said NZRGPN Chief Executive Dalton Kelly.
“In particular we welcome the government’s acknowledgement that this is about the whole rural health workforce and that a multidisciplinary approach is needed. We need more doctors, nurses, midwives and physiotherapists in rural New Zealand and now we need to quickly develop a plan to deliver this.”
Dalton Kelly said while the government’s thinking was in the right area, much more detail was needed and there was no time to waste.
“In particular we want to see the training of a range of health professionals taking place inside rural communities so that students form relationships, become a part of the local community and experience everything that rural life has to offer.
“Embedding students, academics and rural health research programmes inside rural communities will see more of the health workforce choose to stay in rural New Zealand. It will better support and encourage rural kids seeing a viable pathway to a career in medicine and health within their own communities.
“There will also be significant economic development opportunities for rural communities through establishing a network of small rural health workforce training centres as has been so successful in parts of rural Australia,” he said.
Dalton Kelly said a detailed action plan with commitment to resourcing was now needed as it was becoming increasingly difficult to recruit medical professionals into rural communities.
“Approximately half of all rural GPs intend to retire over the next decade and already a quarter or rural medical practices have vacancies that we struggle to fill.
“Today’s announcement is encouraging in that the government’s thinking is aligned with those working in rural medical practices. But we now need a commitment to specific action and we need a plan.
“I’m looking forward to working with the government and its agencies to build a plan that gives rural communities the certainty that they deserve that they will be able to access the same level of healthcare as that of their urban counterparts.”