Faculty Focus – Nelson/Marlborough

27 May 2021

Category: College and members


It may be the one of the most beautiful areas of Aotearoa (if not the world), but the Nelson/Marlborough Faculty is suffering the same GP recruitment issues as the rest of the country.

The idea of a a rural training hub in Nelson, mooted by Australia's Rural Health Commissioner Professor Paul Worley at a Rural Health Conference in Blenheim in 2019, is something the Faculty is fully embracing as a possible solution to the problem.

Professor Worley advocates that training doctors, nurses, and a range of other medical professionals within rural communities will build and retain a strong rural health workforce, and deliver significant social and economic benefits for rural towns and regions.

“As a Faculty, we couldn’t agree more,” says Dr Kirsten Tucker, Chair of the Nelson/Marlborough Faculty. “And the potential this approach could offer our region is very exciting.

“Those who choose to train within a rural hub are much more likely to stay in the rural sector. A training hub could also act as a stimulus for the sector in terms of creating a network of health-related businesses.

“This is important as it’s also very common for GPs to have medically trained partners, so we need to look at what services are out there to employ them,” says Dr Tucker. 

Despite the obvious attractions of living in such a stunning landscape, with wineries and white sand beaches only a hop away, it can be hard to recruit new doctors.

“Everyone says what a fantastic place to live, and they’re right, it’s awesome!” 

“But it’s not without its challenges when it comes to finding new GPs. We’re a very rural area and our doctors have to be prepared to take on extra demands. These can include being on call overnight because there is no St John’s Ambulance to respond to emergencies, says Dr Tucker.

“We also need to be aware that people entering the profession want more flexibility in their lives,” she says.

Attracting doctors is just one of the challenges this rural area faces.

“Another area we would really like to see addressed is the definition of ‘rural’ because it varies depending on who you are talking to and that puts even more obstacles in our way. For example, a place might be defined as rural geographically, but not when it comes to funding,” explains Dr Tucker.

She says the Faculty are focused on advocating at DHB/PHO level to ensure that the primary care viewpoint is heard.

Another area the executive team are looking at is the development of a mentor programme to provide support for new doctors and promote collaboration between different service providers.

“We have plenty of ideas, but it’s been difficult given we haven’t had a face-to-face meeting since 2019,” laughs Kirsten. “Our Zoom meetings are pretty productive, though, and we are all looking forward to our upcoming mini conference weekend in Marlborough, with presentations, talks and a social dinner.

“It will be great to have the faculty together, seeing some old faces and meeting some new ones.”