27 May 2008

The New Zealand Medical Association today strongly welcomed comments by National Leader John Key related to retaining the junior doctor workforce in New Zealand.

"The NZMA strongly supports the concept of service commitments linked to debt relief as a powerful tool in retaining our vital junior doctor workforce," said NZMA Chairman Dr Peter Foley.

Mr Key was quoted on Radio NZ today as saying he is very concerned about a nationwide shortage of doctors. He said the party is working on a policy that may see graduates' loans written off in return for working in a rural or regional area for a number of years.

"The NZMA is pleased that Mr Key has acknowledged the chronic shortage of doctors. We strongly support the direction that Mr Key seems to be heading, although it is important to acknowledge that doctor shortages are not confined to rural and regional areas, nor to General Practitioners.

"We have been advocating this type of system for many years. However, it is vital that any such system be entirely voluntary, as forcing medical students into such arrangements would be counter-productive.

"It is also essential that any such system addresses the debt issue comprehensively. It would also need to make provision for reasonable opportunities for graduate doctors to leave New Zealand for further training and study, as appropriate."

The NZMA is ready to discuss options related to service for debt relief with the National Party and indeed with the current Government.