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article imageNo takers for $400,000 annual salary for doctor in New Zealand

By Ken Hanly     Feb 23, 2016 in Health
Tokoroa - Dr. Alan Kenny co-owns a medical practice in Tokoroa New Zealand. He has been searching for a General Practiioner for two years even though he is offering an income of $400,000 or 190,000 pounds annually.
Kenny, originally from the UK, told reporters from the New Zeland Herald that his practice has "exploded" and that he is overworked. He has had to cancel holidays several times as he has been unable to find anyone to fill in for him. Kenny said: “I can offer them a really, really amazing income; it’s incredible. My practice has exploded in the last year and the more patients you list, the more money you get. But it just gets too much at the end of the day.” Two years ago his daughter, Sarah, came to work as a GP, learn from her father, and help relieve some of the pressure. She is the only New Zealand doctor working at the practice.
There is even more than the hefty salary offered by Kenny. He also offers the right applicant three months annual leave, no night or weekend work, and a half share of the practice. There are 6,000 patients associated with the practice. Kenny has not even had a single applicant the last four months. Kenny said: “I love my work and I would like to stay but I hit my head against a brick wall trying to attract doctors. If it’s hard enough to get doctors to work alongside me, it’s going to be a devil of a job to get doctors to replace me.”
Linda Reynolds, the New Zealand General Practice Network's deputy chief executive, said that the majority of rural GP vacancies were filled by international medical graduates(IMGs). The typical salary for a rural GP was between NZ $150,000 to $280,000. Vacancies took between two to three years to fill. Most of the IMg'S just come on a short term basis. Reynolds said that contributing factors to the shortage of rural GPs were isolation, lack of social activities, and poor access to broadband networks. Four medical recruitment teams have been unable to find Kenny a suitable candidate over the last two years.
Tokoroa is a town of over 13,000 people in the north-central part of the northern island of New Zealand. Dr. Kenny noted that the medical school in Auckland was the largest in New Zealand. The students often came from wealthy families in the Auckland area who did not want to practice in rural areas. He said if more students were recruited from rural areas more might be available.
While owning a practice can increase a doctor's income, many doctors prefer not to own a practice because of the extra work it involves. Dr. Kenny noted that just the other day he saw 43 patients while the limit recommended by the Royal College of GP's is just 25. Doctors in Tokoroa are high earners considering the median income is just $17,000 annually for those 15 and over. Tokoroa has some of New Zealand's cheapest housing. Many doctors, however, commute from larger centers such as Cambridge where there are better opportunities for schooling for older children. Tokoroa is a relatively economically depressed area with unemployment being at a high 22 percent.
Rural areas are not alone in facing a doctor shortage in New Zealand. A survey by the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners in 2015 found 37 per cent of rural practices had a vacancy in 2014 compared with 42 per cent of urban practices. The vacancies in rural practices took longer to fill. Those attracted to Tokoroa are likely to be male, older, work long hours and are trained in South Africa and the United Kingdom.
The same shortage of qualified doctors for rural areas is found in the Canadian prairies. The closest hospital from where I live in Manitoba has only two doctors and both are leaving. As in New Zealand, many rural doctors are trained overseas, Our two local doctors come from South Africa. For some time the hospital has been trying to recruit new doctors but so far with no luck at all. One doctor has agreed to stay on for another six months. The town has less than a thousand people whereas most immigrant doctors want to practice in a large city such as Winnipeg.
More about New Zealand, Health care in New Zealand, Tokoroa
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