Critical shortage of doctors in NZ small towns - expert

  • 14/07/2016

There's almost no such thing as a 'community doctor' anymore, health expert Professor Ross Lawrenson says.

There's a critical shortage of doctors in small towns across New Zealand, and Waikato University's Prof Lawrenson wants medical students sent to rural practices earlier to combat the problem.

"The two medical schools did a survey of medical students who were just qualifying, and only two percent of them wanted to live in a community of less than 10,000 population - there's a real issue there."

He says the system is at crisis point, and he believes the way doctors are trained is letting down rural communities.

"GPs are not living in the towns in which they are working; the money that goes into health doesn't stay in those towns," he says.

A practice in Tokoroa is still struggling to fill a GP position, five months after first advertising the role. 

Prof Lawrenson says part of the problem is too much focus on training specialists.

"In the Waikato since 1998 we've had a 13 percent reduction in GPs per head of population, but at the same time we've had an 80 percent increase in the number of specialists."