Sharp end of GP short­age

The Horowhenua Mail - - FRONT PAGE - MIRI SCHROETER

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.

PHOTO: DAVID UN­WIN/STUFF

Levin GP Glenn Colquhoun says the un­der-re­sourced health sys­tem needs a re­vamp.

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