A small Taranaki town is facing the sharp edge of the country’s GP shortage. The last doctor has left Patea and there’s now a furious scramble to attract a new one.
While recruitment efforts are underway, Patea residents are having to travel to Hawera or Waverley to see a doctor.
That, according to Whanganui Labour candidate, Steph Lewis, is only spreading the problem further afield.
She said the neighbouring towns were already struggling themselves, and the growing workload for doctors in those towns meant some Hawera residents have had to wait up to three weeks to see a GP.
Lewis said it was not good enough for a developed welfare country.
She is also highlighting the difficulty travelling out of town to see a doctor poses for some Patea residents.
There was the financial burden of the extra petrol cost added to the price of a surgery visit, but it was even more of a problem for the many elderly residents and young families who did not have access to a car.
Steph Lewis said using public transport could be very time consuming and it could be hard to get an appointment that suited bus timetables.
The situation in Patea was a reflection of a GP crisis facing the country, particularly in rural areas.
The president of Royal New Zealand School of General Practitioners, Tim Malloy, believes the country is significantly under-doctored.
He said Taranaki was the region struggling the most with the equivalent of 54 full time GPs per hundred thousand people.
That compared to a national average of 74 GPs per hundred thousand people.
Dr Malloy said losing a doctor in a small, isolated, regional place rocked a township and was real cause for concern.
He warned there was no quick fix.
He said it took a minimum of 11 years training to become a GP and even longer to become a sole charge rural doctor.
Dr Malloy said training processes had to improve.
He suggested student doctors needed to come from rural communities and also train in those areas.
Source : New Zealand Herald