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New doctors ease workforce ailment

Masterton Medical. PHOTO/FILE

Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

The pressure on Wairarapa’s primary care sector is set to ease as five new doctors have been recruited in the region.

At the latest Community and Public Health Advisory Committee meeting, Wairarapa District Health Board planning and performance service development manager Fiona Chamberlain reported five general practitioners began working in the region in June and July, with other recruitment activities under way.

“Primary care has managed to recruit some more GPs, which is a really good start,” she said.

“We are under a lot of pressure, particularly in primary care and in hospital right now, significant pressure in relation to the demand that we’ve seen. I must commend primary care, they’ve had a busy, busy June.”

The move to covid-19 Alert Level 2 had further impacted the sector, Chamberlain said.

“That demand on primary care in the middle of an already busy time with a stretched workforce has been really difficult.”

According to the paper presented by Chamberlain at the meeting, five general practices within Wairarapa had closed books to new enrolments, leaving just two remaining open.

There were 712 people on medical centre waiting lists at the time of the report.

Carterton Medical Centre had 76 people on its waiting list.

It would have a new GP beginning this month and was focused on recruiting a nurse practitioner after a resignation.

Whaiora Medical Centre, which had the largest waiting list at 352 people, was also expecting a new GP later this month and had recruited a receptionist.

It was also advertising for an additional practice nurse.

Greytown Medical Centre was in the process of recruiting a GP to cover parental leave, a nurse practitioner, a practice nurse, and an administrator.

Masterton Medical had successfully recruited three new GPs, with two starting in June and another due to start this month.

There were 254 people on its waiting list.

CPHAC committee member Justine Thorpe said at the meeting the practices had done well with their recruitment efforts.

“We just need to be constantly recruiting because someone’s always going to leave.”

Thorpe said Wairarapa health representatives would be meeting the Medical Council, along with representatives from Capital and Coast and Canterbury DHBs, to discuss candidates applying for the New Zealand Registration Examination [NZREX].

“They can actually do their four placements in the second year in the community [instead of a hospital], so actually, how do we practically make that work so that we can create a bit of a primary care pipeline?”

Along with recruitment and retention, workforce challenges noted by the report included increased staff sickness at this time of year, staff in need of annual leave but limited cover available, the ageing workforce, and an increase in swabbing and respiratory assessments over the past month due to change in alert levels and winter viruses.

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