Incentives offered to medical graduates

Graduate doctors, nurses and midwives are being enticed to work in South Canterbury - one of the country's "hard to staff" communities.

Under the Government's voluntary bonding scheme, successful graduates will get help paying off their student loans after a three-to-five year bonded period.

The scheme gives communities and specialties, which find it hard recruiting and retaining health professionals, the chance to gain some of the country's "best and brightest" graduates, Health Minister Tony Ryall said.

This year, doctors, nurses and midwives have been added to the list of areas considered as ‘hard-to-staff'.

South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB) chief executive Nigel Trainor said a further 3.7 fulltime equivalent (FTE) doctors, 7.7 FTE nurses and 1 FTE midwife were needed in the district.

Based on FTE figures for September 2013, SCDHB has 57.21 FTE doctors, 249.32 FTE nurses and 18 FTE midwives.

Hard-to-staff areas for doctors include GP trainees, emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology.

Mr Trainor said the scheme offered some "great benefits" long term. "The interest varies throughout the year ... but it is not a constant problem."

He said South Canterbury was "an ideal" start to a graduate's career because of the district's size and "true generalist nature" of the hospital.

"[First-year house officers] are afforded greater opportunities to develop their medical skills in Timaru because they literally work side by side with their consultants - there are no registrars competing with them for clinical practice experience."

An example was with surgical-related house officers, who are expected to assist surgeons in theatre. However, in larger centres it was often only registrars who obtained that experience on a regular basis.

The West Coast and South Canterbury are considered as hard-to-staff with nurses, particularly in primary healthcare.

Hard-to-staff communities for midwives includes Capital and Coast District Health Board, Tairawhiti District Health Board; and specific communities within the Waikato and Canterbury regions.

"There are currently 2688 participants on the scheme, and these health professionals are making a significant contribution to their areas," Mr Ryall said. "The success of the scheme so far has proven that health professionals are going where they are needed most."

The Timaru Herald