Sharp end of GP shortage
An ageing population, including its doctors, has Horowhenua at the sharp end of a national GP shortage.
Figures paint a grim portrait of the district’s struggle to attract GPs during a national doctor shortage.
Horowhenua had an average of 57.8 fulltime GPs per 100,000, people compared with the national average of 69.8, Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners chief executive Helen Morgan-Banda said.
Horowhenua also has the third highest ageing population behind Thames-Coromandel and Ka¯piti Coast.
GPs in Horowhenua were also ageing.
In the MidCentral District Health Board region, which includes Levin, 55 per cent of GPs are 55 or older, compared with the national average of 42 per cent.
Thirty-six per cent would reach retirement age in the next five years, compared with the national average of 27 per cent.
A common issue for GPs wanting to work in smaller centres was ensuring there were education opportunities for their children, particularly beyond secondary school, she said.
People also moved where there were opportunities for their partners.
Levin youth specialty doctor Glenn Colquhoun said working in Levin had its benefits. The community was kind and he had the opportunity to get to know his patients.
He spent up to an hour with a patient, rather than the average 15 minutes.
But many GPs did not have that luxury as they were pressured to work fast and spend less time with patients, he said.
‘‘If you’ve got to go fast, then medicine is miserable. It doesn’t really allow clinicians to drill down on what the real issues are.’’
Spending more time with patients added to Colquhoun’s job satisfaction as he learned more about them, meaning he could offer better help.
Doctors needed to feel as though there were doing meaningful work, he said.
General practice also had less variety than it used to as GPs were no longer required for tasks such as delivering babies.
‘‘Their work has a lot less variety in it. There’s been lots of specialisation.’’
The health system needed to be redesigned, Colquhoun said, with the removal of DHBs as the ‘‘middlemen’’.
‘‘I can’t see why we need them. All of those soak up resources. It’s got way too complicated. Just have a really good Ministry of Health.’’
GPs also needed to work more closely with other services, including social workers and psychologists, he said.
Levin GP Glenn Colquhoun says the under-resourced health system needs a revamp.