Funding for hiring doctors

Last updated 17:59 02/12/2013

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The Government has had to step in and pay District Health Boards to take on graduate doctors after 24 were found to be "surplus to requirements", the Nurses Organisation says.

Associate professional services manager Hilary Graham-Smith said the organisation had been made aware the Government had paid hospitals to take on remaining graduates.

The situation was concerning and had wider implications, she said.

"Incentivising DHBs to take new graduate doctors is not a sustainable way forward for the health system in New Zealand," she said.

"Having an agency in charge of health work force planning who had no idea there would be more doctors than places this year is worrying."

Health Workforce New Zealand is a government agency set up in 2009 to manage staffing throughout the health sector.

Acting director Dr Ruth Anderson said DHBs had been asked to prioritise the placement of New Zealand residents from New Zealand medical schools.

However, no students were surplus to requirements and extra funding given to the DHBs for the hires was managed with the current budget, she said.

"The number of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents graduating from New Zealand medical schools has increased following improved retention, reduced overseas locum positions and an increase in the number of medical student places progressively available from 2008.

"Health Workforce New Zealand and the Government have been, and continue to be, committed to ensuring there are sufficient ... places for our domestic government-funded medical graduates," she said.

Figures released last week by the Medical Council showed the proportion of New Zealand doctors remaining in the country after they'd graduated had fallen.

Although the statistics showed the number of active doctors was up by 2.5 per cent last year, the rate of new doctors entering the work force had slowed.

Numbers jumped from 14,333 in 2011 to 14,686 last year, but that was compared with an increase of 3.2 per cent in 2011 and 3.5 per cent in 2010.

On average, 84 per cent of New Zealand graduates are retained for two years after they graduate.

By the third year, figures show 78 per cent remain in the country, with some returning to New Zealand after a period away - those figures rose to 79 per cent 5 years after graduation.

Retention rates levelled out to between 61 and 70 per cent in years 8 to 14 after graduation.

Graham-Smith said the organisation was particularly concerned that employment problems for new nurses has not been resolved either.

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"Fewer than half of new graduate nurses have got a job, which means that hundreds of graduating nurses have been forced to travel around the country attending interviews for very few positions."

Labour health spokeswoman Annette King said it was "galling" for those struggling to find work that the Government was offering sweeteners so hospitals would take on graduate doctors.

Health Minister Tony Ryall could "sugarcoat the problem all he likes. The reality is more than a third of our nursing students don't have a job after graduating," she said.

"Until Mr Ryall stepped in to incentivise DHBs some 24 new doctors might have been out of work as well."

King said if Ryall was handing out extra money for hiring doctors, then he should be doing the same thing for nurses.

- Fairfax Media

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