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Survey Raises Workforce Stakes

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Survey Raises Workforce Stakes

Doctors are working fewer hours and there aren't as many Maori and Pacific Island doctors, the latest Medical Council workforce survey shows.

In 2009, doctors' average weekly hours decreased to 44.2 compared with 44.7 in 2008 and 44.8 in 2007, the New Zealand Medical Workforce in 2009 report shows.

The number of doctors identifying as Maori has reduced from 3.1 to 3 per cent between 2008 and 2009, and for Pacific Island doctors the numbers have reduced from 1.8 to 1.4 per cent, which the council says is significant and concerning.

However, council chair John Adams says, while the reasons around the decrease are complex, workforce planning is not a core function of the council. Having said that, Dr Adams says the council is working closely with Health Workforce New Zealand.

150 extra Maori medical students needed

According to a report launched at the Hui a Tau for Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa (Te ORA Māori Medical Practitioners Association meeting) last month the projected population of 810,730 Māori in 2026 equates to 1784 Māori doctors.

The report, called Shifting Maori Health Needs: Maori population trends, health service needs, and medical workforce requirements - issues arising, says this equates to an extra 150 Maori need to enter medical education every year for the next decade just to keep up with increasing population and health service demands (>>, 'News', 27 September).

Any decrease a great shame

Far North GP Lance O'Sullivan agrees that while the reduction in Maori doctors is small, it is concerning and also a great shame.

"Three per cent is a pathetic number of doctors for the population we serve," Dr O'Sullivan says.

He says 90 per cent of his patients are Maori and he's the one Maori doctor in the area, so any decrease in Maori workforce, no matter how small, is concerning.

Taking matters into his own hands

Just this week Dr O'Sullivan's wife emailed all the Northland secondary schools offering his services as a speaker to inspire students to choose medicine.

"It's about good role modelsand making the young ones believe they can do it. That's a big thing and having the support to get them through university," he says.

Other survey findings

Other findings from the Medical Council survey show that between 2008 and 2009:

the number of doctors increased from 12,949 to 13,269

the proportion of international medical graduates increased from 38.9 per cent to 40.6 per cent, and;

the number of doctors per 100,000 population increased from 303 to 307.

The average age of doctors remains at 45 (the same as 2008 and 2007).

The survey had a response rate of more than 90 per cent.

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