The Health Minister’s hint of 16 extra GP places for the next intake is heartening but still far short of the 300 places previously promised, says College of GPs’ president Dr Tim Malloy.
Dr David Clark and Malloy both gave addresses at the opening day of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners’ annual conference which more than 600 GPs are attending in Auckland this weekend.
Malloy told the attending GPs in his opening address on Friday that the College had been warning about a looming GP shortage for a long time and had provided hard evidence to the Minister who had said he would increase the number of GP trainees.
“But our concern now is that this ‘commitment’ has yet to turn into actual, tangible training places.”
Malloy said for the second year in a row, the College has received more applications for its vocational training programme for GPs than it had funded places available.
He said was heartened to hear the Minister confirm that Health Workforce New Zealand will look at its budget with the goal of funding an additional 16 GP training places for the 2018/19 intake to bring the number up from the current expectations of 190 funded trainee places.
“However, this is just a short-term fix. What we really want is a commitment that will be able to fund 300 trainees each year, as previously promised,” said Malloy.
“Without this we have a situation that is unfair on the applicants, unfair on everyone who is involved in the teaching of our future GPs, and unfair on patients – who will be the ones most affected by a lack of GPs in future,” he said.
“The Government, students and whanau all make a huge investment to produce medical graduates, and we need to ensure that investment is used wisely by increasing our frontline GP workforce and services to patients.
“What we need is a multi-year contract, with an agreed number of training places, so we can provide certainty to the medical students, new doctors, trainers and the general practices that would train them.”
Malloy said the College would continue to advocate on behalf of its current and future workforce. He said that he was prepared to work with politicians and government officials, until the matter was resolved.
“Nearly half the workforce plans to retire within the next decade. If we don’t address this issue with urgency, we will find ourselves with a massive shortfall,” he says.
“Every trainee GP matters. It takes a minimum of 11 years to train a GP, so we can’t afford to be complacent. The time for talk has passed. Now is the time for action.”