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The Voluntary Bonding Scheme needs to be more focused on delivering better health services for rural New Zealand, Labour spokesperson for Rural Affairs Damien O’Connor says.
The scheme was set up in 2009 to encourage newly graduated doctors, midwives, nurses and vets to take up placements in hard to staff areas and specialties. However, there is no system in place to track how many of these graduates end up in rural areas.
“Measures must be put in place to establish how well the scheme is working for rural communities and whether there needs to be another tier added to further incentivise graduates to work in rural areas,” Damien O’Connor said.
“High vacancy rates and reliance on expensive locums takes a toll on the quality of service that can be provided in rural areas and places stress on medical and veterinary professionals and their staff.
“The nature of these jobs is also different in a rural setting, as compared to those in towns or cities.
“It is therefore important that we have separate statistics for rural voluntary bonding and that it is not lumped together with all hard to staff areas.
“Rural communities are the beating hearts of our primary industries, which contribute hugely to our GDP. We have to look after them,” said Damien O’Connor.