Tokoroa doctor with the $400K job offer: I've been flooded with trash applicants

Tokoroa GP Dr Alan Kenny says that he is feeling "tired, pissed off and dispirited". Photo / Mike Scott
Tokoroa GP Dr Alan Kenny says that he is feeling "tired, pissed off and dispirited". Photo / Mike Scott

Dr Alan Kenny, the New Zealand doctor who made global headlines with his ad for a $400,000 job at his practice in Tokoroa, has been flooded with hundreds of trash applicants.

Since the Herald broke the story of the "job no one wants", Dr Kenny said he had been inundated by calls from around the world, including India, Bosnia and Brazil, from interested applicants - but that 99 per cent of them were "trash".

The director of Tokoroa Family Health said he was struggling to find 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.

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In an interview with the UK Guardian, Dr Kenny said he was feeling "tired, pissed off and dispirited".

"It is all I can do to carry on today, this is an abominable situation, which is very distracting and quite ugly," he said.

"The town has reacted with great hostility to my situation and the knowledge of what medical professionals earn. There is trash talk about me all over Facebook, and a lot of hostility from the town itself. I feel very stressed, my patients are unhappy and my staff are feeling under a lot of pressure. I have a throbbing headache and if a meaningful candidate emerges from this horrible experience I will be very surprised."

He said he was considering a couple of candidates with "rigorous qualifications".

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Dr Kenny's recent complaint follow remarks from Tokoroa's second medical centre, Tokoroa Medical, on the problem of recruiting GPs to less desirable smaller towns.

The practice owners said it was not just about offering doctors 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 no doctors wanted to take over management of the practises. Of 400 doctors surveyed in 2006, 73 per cent were owner-operators compared with 50 per cent last year.

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 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 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, and 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."

Although 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."

- NZ Herald

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