The search for new doctors for the Whanganui region is being aided unexpectedly by Covid-19.
The Whanganui Regional Health Network is working to address a projected shortage of GPs in the next five years as 50 per cent of the region's GP workforce prepares to retire.
CEO Jude MacDonald says the network has created salaried positions for GPs who don't want to buy a business interest in a general practice or set up their own practice, in the hope that some doctors would choose to stay permanently. She says the strategy has been quite successful.
For the first time in many years, Taihape now has a full permanent complement of three doctors. In Raetihi, where the community had to rely on short-term locums for some time following the retirement of the district's only GP several years ago, a permanent doctor is now in place and focus has shifted to attracting a second permanent doctor for the Ruapehu region.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
MacDonald said Covid-19 had raised awareness among doctors overseas of New Zealand as being an attractive place to live and work, and this would help in the drive to entice GPs to the Whanganui region.
"While we absolutely accept that they do not understand our culture and are not always well integrated into our communities, we believe that by offering them better orientation and support that they can deliver a really safe service, so that is another strand that we are working on at the moment to get more permanent positions happening in our region."
MacDonald said one doctor had just arrived in the region from America for six months.
"We hope we offer him so much hospitality and experience that he stays."
Two trainee intern doctors will also be gaining experience in Taihape and the Ruapehu district, and similar programmes will be explored for Whanganui city.