June 19, 2008

Medical Students, Doctors Like Nats’ Plan to Bond Recent Graduates

A National Party plan to offer student-debt relief in exchange for graduate doctors serving in rural areas has won backing from doctors and medical students.

A day after The Press revealed National was considering a scheme to bond recent medical graduates, Opposition Leader John Key provided more details, saying bonding would be voluntary and would reward graduates serving in rural areas by removing or cutting student debt.

The idea of a voluntary bond won support yesterday from doctors and medical students.

New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) chairman Dr Peter Foley said he supported the idea, adding that debt relief for graduates would be a powerful tool for retaining a junior doctor workforce being tempted by pay conditions in Australia.

"The NZMA is pleased that Mr Key has acknowledged the chronic shortage of doctors. We 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," he said.

Foley said the NZMA had advocated the idea of a voluntary bond but would oppose any bid to force doctors to remain in New Zealand as a contractual part of student-loan arrangements.

The New Zealand Medical Students Association (NZMSA) also applauded Key's bid to address the loss of young New Zealand doctors overseas.

"Mr Key has every reason to be very concerned by the number of young medical graduates leaving New Zealand," said NZMSA president Anna Dare.

"While multiple factors have led us to our current medical workforce crisis, the impact of the high graduate debts on junior- doctor migration cannot be underestimated."

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