By Emily Norman
Nearly half of Wairarapa doctors plan to retire in the next 10 years, threatening to leave a hole in the profession and have collateral effects on patients.
But plans are in action to ensure Wairarapa is left relatively unscathed by it.
Recruiting GPs with young families, like Dr Hermant Kheterpal of Masterton Medical, is part of that plan.
With over half of Wairarapa GPs aged over 55, and 46 per cent of Wairarapa GPs intending to retire before 2025, medical centres are thinking ahead, bringing in younger doctors now to avoid a shortage of experienced doctors later.
Dr Flora Gilkison, manager of Masterton Medical, the largest general practice in Wairarapa, said the company was “probably a bit ahead of the game” when it came to securing the right doctors for a sustainable workforce.
She said Masterton Medical had faced the consequences of an aging workforce over the past 18 months, a time in which three GPs had retired and one had died.
“Since then, we have been trying to recruit younger GPs with families so that they can add in every way to the Masterton and Wairarapa community, bringing with them extra skills,” Dr Gilkison said.
“We have recently recruited a wonderful doctor from Singapore, Dr Hemant Kheterpal, and his wife Alka is also a doctor, so she’s working with us now as well.”
Dr Kheterpal, originally from India, moved from Singapore to Masterton last year.
With two kids aged 9 and 14 attending Hadlow and Rathkeale, he said he and his wife were here to stay.
“Wairarapa is doing a good job in dealing with the retiring population of GPs because, especially at Masterton Medical, they are screening and scrutinising the doctors who want to come work here,” he said.
“They’re really looking for long-timers, the ones who have a family, ones who have kids, basically people who can easily establish themselves in the community and can stay here for the long-term.
“That gives the practice a good continuity of care.”
Dr Gilkison said she acknowledged that the Masterton area “is not for everyone” but the practice is doing all it can to plan for the future.