Yesterday’s announcement by the Government to fast-track residency applications for overseas trained general practitioners has been applauded by The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.
General practitioners and rural hospital doctors are the first point of contact for most community healthcare concerns and undertake 14 million consultations every year in New Zealand covering complete cradle to grave care, but there’s not enough of them.
College President Dr Samantha Murton says, “Pre-pandemic, 40 percent of New Zealand’s general practice workforce came from overseas. With two years of closed borders, high rates of burnout, and data showing 50 percent of general practitioners' plan to retire by 2030, we welcome this news to boost GP numbers, which will mean we can provide more access and support to our communities.
“Communities need specialist general practitioners who have the training and knowledge to provide the comprehensive and complex continuity of care that is required for all patients.”
The College offers options to help internationally trained GPs meet the same rigorous training that New Zealand-trained specialists undertake and is keen to hear from internationally trained doctors wanting to make Aotearoa home.
Many regions of New Zealand are struggling to have enough GPs to cover patients; areas like Northland, Tairawhiti, Taranaki, Nelson-Marlborough, the South Island’s West Coast, and Southland.
Dr Moira Chamberlain from Whangarei says, “More GPs in Northland would mean the thousands of currently unenrolled Northlanders would be able to enrol with a local general practice and access services, which would improve the health of the community and ease pressure on secondary care services.
“Our current GP workforce in Northland is exhausted and overwhelmed and we would welcome more GPs to our community which would go a long way to ease some of our workload and prevent burnout and early retirement.”
The College released the GP Future Workforce Requirements Report earlier this year highlighting how more general practitioners will have a measurable impact on the health of New Zealanders:
• 10 extra GPs per 100,000 people means 30 people a year would not die from cancer, respiratory, and cardiovascular issues
• More GPs would save the economy $139.6 million in health savings a year ($150m per year in savings minus the cost of $10.4m to train more GPs)
The College will continue to advocate for general practice to be seen as a viable career choice and ensure everyone understands how crucial medical care in the community is to improving health outcomes for New Zealanders.