Up to 100 doctors and 250 nurses and midwives may be enticed into difficult-to-staff communities and specialties under National plans to write off part of their student loans.
National leader John Key yesterday unveiled a voluntary bonding scheme for medical and nursing staff that would wipe annual amounts in return for work in areas with acute shortages.
A doctor could have $10,000 a year knocked off, while nurses and midwives could get around $3500. Along with an interest-free student loan policy, it would help a young doctor with a $75,000 loan become debt-free within five years.
The plan aims to lure staff to isolated or run-down inner-city areas where few choose to work or encourage them into specialties with recruitment problems. Mr Key said the plan, funded from existing budgets, would cost $3 million in the first year, rising to $9million in the third.
"It's to reflect what we think is a crisis in the workforce in the health sector ... When people spend time in the workforce in the community, they become engaged in that local community and they're more likely to stay."
Keeping Stock reckons this is an excellent and innovative policy. The government has thrown billions of dollars in additional expenditure at health, with little difference in terms of throughputs due largely to staffing constraints. Our experience of the health system earlier in the year was of a hospital where a significant percentage of the medical staff was made up of doctors from overseas. Anything that can encourage our health professionals to stay here should be welcomed.