‘Dire’ GP short­age is in need of fix­ing

South Waikato News - - Your Paper, Your Place - AARON LEAMAN

A so­lu­tion to heart­land New Zealand’s GP cri­sis lies with its young peo­ple, a ru­ral stal­wart says.

Doc­tor David Srini­vasagam has worked as a GP in Pu­taruru for 17 years and knows too well the dif­fi­cul­ties of at­tract­ing doc­tors to ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

He’s one of only two per­ma­nent doc­tors serv­ing more than 5500 pa­tients across Pu­taruru and Ti­rau.

Through his work, Srini­vasagam reg­u­larly comes across young peo­ple he says would make great doc­tors.

Two of his pa­tients have since taken his ad­vice and en­rolled in med­i­cal school – the tip of a rich, un­tapped source of tal­ent.

‘‘The prob­lem is when you say to young peo­ple, why don’t you be­come a doc­tor, many don’t think they will be able to do it, and it can be quite dis­cour­ag­ing,’’ the 56-year-old said.

Em­pa­thy for oth­ers, passion, and good prob­lem-solv­ing skills are just as im­por­tant as aca­demic grades when it comes to lay­ing the foun­da­tions of a good doc­tor.

‘‘The truth is you don’t have to be su­per in­tel­li­gent. You sim­ply need to have av­er­age in­tel­li­gence and be able to think lat­er­ally and think out­side the box,’’ Srini­vasagam said.

He sup­ports Waikato’s bid to

‘‘The truth is you don't have to be su­per in­tel­li­gent.’’

cre­ate the coun­try’s third med­i­cal school and com­mends its fo­cus on se­lect­ing stu­dents from un­der­rep­re­sented groups, in­clud­ing peo­ple from ru­ral back­grounds.

The Waikato bid, a joint ini­tia­tive by Waikato Univer­sity and Waikato DHB, draws on over­seas mod­els, such as Canada’s North­ern On­tario School of Medicine.

The North­ern On­tario med school opened in 2005 and has proved suc­cess­ful in train­ing and plac­ing doc­tors in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

About 40 per cent of North­ern On­tario med stu­dents come from re­mote and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

Srini­vasagam said an­other strength of the pro­posed Waikato med school is its in­ten­tion to take grad­u­ates with a ter­tiary de­gree.

‘‘Se­lect­ing only grad­u­ates is a great idea be­cause those stu­dents have al­ready been through univer­sity, which re­quires ef­fort. If some­one is ca­pa­ble of do­ing well in their stud­ies, there’s no rea­son why they can’t be­come a doc­tor.’’

Cur­rently, pa­tients in Pu­taruru and Ti­rau face a min­i­mum wait of three to four days be­fore they can see a doc­tor.

It’s a sit­u­a­tion Srini­vasagam says isn’t good enough.

‘‘If you want to see a doc­tor, you should be able to see them on the same day.

‘‘It’s pretty dire at the mo­ment, but the fact is there just isn’t enough GPS,’’ he said.

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