National is promising to tackle New
Zealand’s doctor shortage by boosting the number of medical student
places by 200 a year.

The policy released today would cost $31 million a year, once it
was fully implemented five years after a National-led government
entered office.

National’s policy launch today followed the release of a Medical
Training Board report which said medical schools needed to create at
least 100 new places over the next four years to meet future
workforce needs.

The report also rang alarm bells over the health sector’s
reliance on locums and the shortage of GPs in many rural areas.

National’s health spokesperson Tony Ryall said National’s plan would
see student places progressively boosted from 365 now to 565 in
2014. The first increase of 60 extra places would be in 2010.

The plan would cost $3 million extra in its first year, rising to
$31 million in 2014.

Ryall said the money for the policy would be found from
existing funds already allocated to health and education in future
budget years.

“The health system is in crisis, with workforce shortages in
many professional fields,” he said.

“We’re among the world’s biggest exporters and importers of
doctors. This can’t go on . We need to move towards self

About 40 percent of New Zealand doctors are overseas-trained.

National would also increase the number of funded GP-registrar
training places from 104 to 154, Ryall said.

Health Minister David Cunliffe today said he would consult
Cabinet over the training board’s recommendation for 100 extra
places, but noted the report’s comments that it was only one part of
the solution.

He also announced today that the Health Ministry would take over
workforce planning for the whole sector, co-ordinating the work of
various sector agencies.

“Workforce investment makes up two thirds of all investment in
health so it is critical we get it right.”

He said the Government would also look at improving retention of
graduates, increasing the number of funded GP registrar places and
post-graduate education for midwives.