‘Dire’ GP shortage is in need of fixing
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.