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“Crisis” a decade in the making

A GP shortage that is seeing appointments pushed out two months has been a decade in the making, one clinic says.

Patients enrolled at Whaiora in Masterton were told last week that no appointments were available until early February, 2023.

Whaiora general manager Triny Ruhe said a GP shortage and patients rushing to get things checked out or prescriptions filled before the Christmas holidays arrived were exacerbating problems.

“There is a shortage nationwide. We are always actively recruiting and have been since before covid.

“We have to do the best we can, seeing as many patients as we can with the staff we have.”

Ruhe said the shortage was a decade in the making.

“This crisis has been known for the last 10 years.

“Covid accelerated it, but it’s been known for 10 years that we have an ageing GP workforce who are moving away or coming to the end of their career.

“We’re now coming to the end of that 10-year timespan to address that, and nothing’s been done.”

For Whaiora patients, a range of solutions were being offered to help ease the wait for appointments. Patients could arrange virtual appointments via Practice Plus, talk with pharmacists, or arrange for an in-person appointment at Featherston Medical centre.

“We’re always here, if people have any questions they can ring in,” Ruhe said.

“We’re trying out best and ask people to please be patient – we’re trying to give you the care you deserve.”

The shortage could be seen across the region. Of seven Tu Ora Compass practices across Wairarapa, only two accepted new patients.

Tu Ora Compass Health chief executive Justine Thorpe said they acknowledged that there was a national shortage of GPs.

“This challenge is often compounded in rural provincial areas such as Wairarapa.

“We also acknowledge that with the latest rise in covid cases, clinicians are also becoming unwell, which can place a further strain on services.”

Thorpe said Tu Ora was working hard to support their Wairarapa workforce.

“We continue to implement strategies supporting an increase of clinical staff into the region. This includes a dedicated local recruitment consultant with a focus on attracting and retaining our Wairarapa primary care workforce from both national and international markets.

“We welcome this week’s government announcement, which aims to fast-track immigration processes for our critical primary health care workforce.

“Currently, we often see a gap between a GP or nurse leaving and a replacement being able to start, which is key for service continuity. ”

Thorpe said that while their focus on workforce recruitment remained a priority, they had offered a series of training modules during the last few years to support clinician health and wellbeing.

George Shiers
George Shiers
George Shiers is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age interested in politics and social issues. He reports regularly on a range of topics including infrastructure, housing, and transport. George is also the Tararua reporter and helps cover police, fire and court stories.

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