GP's consider early retirement as workloads become unmanageable

Some GP's are considering early retirement - as workloads spiral. 

This comes as the health system screams out for support - with many telling us it's a crisis. 

But the Health Minister is so far refusing to call it that. 

ProCare runs 200 practices across Auckland and its Clinical Director Dr Allan Moffit joined Wilhelmina Shrimpton on Wednesday afternoon to talk more about his views on the current situation.

Dr Moffit told Wilhelmina that the recent combination of COVID and winter illnesses such as the flu virus are causing particularly busy times for most if not all GP's.

A recent college GP survey completed last year showed that around a third of GP's reported feeling burnt out, an increase from 25 percent the year before.

He acknowledged that COVID has impacted these figures and the increase in staff being off work sick or having to isolate has contributed to this.

One of his biggest concerns is GP's who are close to retirement or have indicated that they will retire soon are now being tempted to retire sooner with the increased workload.

"We can't really afford to have that. 

"New Zealand has always relied on international medical graduates to fill the workforce and with COVID of course that tap was largely turned off so we've got a double whammy in many effects."

Personally, he told WIlhelmina, he is aware of a number of GP's who have decided to retire early as a result of the increased stress coming on the back of COVID.

Dr Moffit said that New Zealand has been in a health crisis for some time, but because it has been increasing gradually people just put up with it and put up with it, but it is now getting to a point where the industry actually can't cope anymore."

"To be honest this has been heralded for a long time, the planners have been well aware that the GP workforce is going to become a critical issue from about 2014 the modelling used to show that that would be a crunch point.

"We are almost a decade beyond that and things have gotten worse, not better and they are going to get a lot worse in the next decade as well."

He revealed that some GP's have ratios even higher than one GP to 3500 patients.

The major concern Dr Moffit has is that a large number of current GP's are close to retirement and that there is a large gap between them and the next group of young people working to become GP's.

Although he is in favour of loosening legislation on bringing medical graduates in from overseas, Dr Moffit told Wilhelmina that health staff need to be culturally appropriate to work in New Zealand.

"The medical council does have rules around getting international graduates into practice and I think we could do more to allow that to happen.

"What we don't want to see is medical graduates that aren't culturally appropriate in New Zealand."

Virtual care is a viable option Dr Moffit sees for the future but needs to ensure the medical professionals are still properly qualified for the role.

Listen to the full interview between Procare's Clinical Director Dr Allan Moffit and Wilhelmina Shrimpton above.

You can also download the full interview on the Lloyd Burr Live podcast, and listen on the go. Check it out on the rova app or wherever you get your podcasts.