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Wairarapa’s ageing doctors

Wairarapa has an ageing population, and its doctors are no exception.
The region has had the oldest doctor workforce in New Zealand for the past five years.
The Medical Council of New Zealand said in its recent New Zealand Medical Workforce Survey, published yesterday, that doctors tended to be older, on average, outside of the main centres.
“However, this trend is not as pronounced as it is with gender and country of qualification.”
It said that Wairarapa doctors had the oldest average age at 53.
Coming in second was Waitemata, in west Auckland, with an average age of 49.
Although Wairarapa had held the top spot for oldest doctors for five years, the average age fluctuated between 2017 and 2022, with a peak of 56.3 years in 2017.
The medical council did not report on average doctor age by region before 2017.
The 2022 report said Wairarapa had 80 doctors and 37 general practitioners.
It said general practitioners outside the major centres tended to report working more hours.
“General practitioners in Wairarapa reported working an average of 40.1 hours per week, followed by South Canterbury with 39.5 hours and Te Tai o Poutini West Coast at 38.6 hours.”
The Times-Age reported in August that Wairarapa had one of the worst patient-to-doctor ratios in New Zealand.
At current population levels, there were 1425 residents for every fulltime general practitioner.
Despite a shift in the number of women doctors, Wairarapa had the second lowest proportion with 40 per cent of our doctors identifying as women.
The report said women doctors were more highly represented in larger centres.
Nearby, the former Capital and Coast DHB, covering Wellington and Kapiti, has the highest proportion of women doctors at 51.6 per cent and is one of only two regions with more women in the profession than men.
Medical council chair Dr Curtis Walker said women would outnumber men in the workforce by 2025 based on current trends.
He said the proportion of women in the workforce increased from 46.6 per cent in 2021, to 47.4 per cent in 2022.
“It’s pleasing to see that this is supported by council’s registration data, showing as of June 30, 47.7 per cent of doctors on the register with a current practising certificate are women.”
Meanwhile, Walker said while Maori and Pasifika doctors were increasing across New Zealand, there was still work to do to achieve a more proportional workforce.
“Maori and Pasifika remain noticeably under-represented compared to their proportion of the population.
“It is very important that the medical profession reflects the demographics of the communities it serves.”
The survey results showed there were about 872 Maori doctors and 417 Pasifika doctors in New Zealand Aotearoa.
The report did not summarise Maori and Pasifika doctors by location.
It said Wairarapa had the third-highest number of international medical graduates, comprising 65 per cent of the workforce, adding that a significant proportion of doctors in New Zealand gained their medical degrees overseas, with 42.2 per cent of doctors on the register being international medical graduates.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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