23 Oct 2020

New Caledonia contemplates hiring Pacific doctors

5:28 pm on 23 October 2020
New Caledonia's main hospital

New Caledonia's main hospital Photo: RNZ Walter Zweifel

A law is being proposed in New Caledonia to broaden access to the medical profession for doctors trained in New Zealand, Australia and Fiji.

The proposal had been drawn up by the pro-independence parties as well as the mainly Wallisian-backed Pacific Awakening party to counter a growing shortage of physicians, in particular in the rural north.

They said the average age of doctors was now 55 and new demands arose with an aging population and changing health challenges.

They said the medical labour force was transient, with young physicians from Europe coming briefly to see part of the Pacific while older doctors want to escape the French winter.

They also said over the years, there had been a feminisation of the field, which led to difficulties in combining professional and family life.

While the proposal would end the quasi-monopoly of French-trained doctors and midwives, it suggested that hiring foreigners would be cost-neutral and offer professionals in the region new options.

It noted that health care was within the prerogative of the New Caledonian government, which would be authorised to accredit foreign doctors deemed to have a sufficient command of the French language.