Tokoroa's second medical centre, Tokoroa Medical, says recruiting GPs to less desirable smaller towns is not just about offering them bulging pay packets - people don't want the stress of running their own clinics any more.
Pinnacle Midlands Health merged three surgeries and formed Tokoroa Medical at the start of 2014 because older GPs were retiring and there were no doctors wanting to take over management of the practices. Of the 400 doctors surveyed in 2006, 73 per cent were owner operators compared with 50 per cent last year.
Tokoroa doctor Alan Kenny, who is a director of the town's only other practice, Tokoroa Family Health, is struggling to find any doctors to work in his surgery despite advertising for two years and offering an income of $400,000 plus and no night or weekend work.
Overseas doctors have responded to Dr Kenny's plea and two - one from Jamaica - contacted the Herald eager to find out more.
But Pinnacle Midlands Health chief executive John Macaskill-Smith said offering a premium to rural doctors was not enough. Because there were fewer rural doctors they had more patients so the organisation tried to better manage the workload by offering patients virtual appointments over the phone or by email and making the experience less GP-focused by letting patients deal with other medical staff, he said.
"It's creating an environment that for both the patient and staff working there is a little bit more controlled, a little bit more modern ... And what we are finding is that is having a material impact on being able to recruit people into places like Tokoroa."
Although Pinnacle was still managing to attract staff to rural towns by offering flexibility, it was a harder sell compared with hospital doctors who received $16,000 a year to pay for continuing medical education, nine weeks' annual leave and an 8 per cent contribution to KiwiSaver.
Medical recruitment agency Ring Recruitment director Liz Varadi said there was a shortage of doctors everywhere and she had been unable to fill three urgent roles in Auckland. Ms Varadi said the average salary for a junior doctor started at $160,000, while an experienced doctor working as a practice employee could earn about $300,000.
Kiwi doctors were not prepared to uproot their families and overseas doctors were not flocking to New Zealand as they once had, which she put down to New Zealand tightening its criteria and Australia offering more money.
Meanwhile, South Waikato mayor Neil Sinclair said doctors and other young professionals needed to consider Tokoroa as they would not find a safer, caring community where they could live close to skiing and fishing.
"I've been here for 52 years and brought up a family here and I couldn't have asked for a better place."
While finding people to take over small businesses had always been an issue, he said a new bus service running from Tokoroa to the University of Waikato would help people train while still being able to live in the town.
"Not many in our district earn $400,000, but we have that wonderful family community which we can offer to people. Population decline isn't going to be one of our worries, quite frankly."