Rural doctors still in need in some areas

A study examining the effectiveness of a programme established to help solve New Zealand's shortage of doctors in rural areas has found gaps in the South Island are being filled but other areas are still in need.

The Rural Hospital Medicine Training Programme was started in 2008 in response to the workforce shortage and the lack of any training programme for rural hospital doctors.

The results of the University of Otago study showed 85% of the programme's graduates were still practising in rural areas after they completed the programme. Forty-six percent also finished a GP or emergency medicine training programme.

The study, which was co-authored by the University of Otago's Dr Rory Miller and published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, assessed the effectiveness of the programme.

The vocational training programme is administered by the Division of Rural Hospital Medicine and the academic component is largely provided by the University of Otago.

Dr Miller said the research coincided with the end of the first 10 years of the programme and although the results were encouraging they showed there was still room for improvement.

The results showed the training programme was producing doctors who were continuing on to work in rural New Zealand, Dr Miller said.

However, they have also shown they have not spread evenly across the country as many graduates have clustered in the South Island, he said.

"Many rural hospitals, some serving communities with the greatest health needs, are not yet benefitting from the programme.

"Rural hospitals differ from metropolitan hospitals in that they are generally smaller and staffed with generalist doctors and nurses that provide emergency, inpatient and in many cases primary care or general practice services for their community."

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