GP’s Early Retirement may Worsen Doctor Shortage In Australia

by VR Sreeraman on Jul 20 2009 1:02 PM

A third of Western Australian GPs aged 45-65 years plan to retire early, potentially deepening Australia’s medical workforce shortage, according to research published in this year’s General Practice edition of the Medical Journal of Australia.

Associate Professor Tom Brett, Director of General Practice and Primary Health Care Research at the University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, and his co-authors surveyed 178 Western Australian GPs aged 45-65 years.

Assoc Prof Brett said 63 of the respondents planned to retire before the age of 65.

“Of those GPs planing to retire early, 46% said this was because of the pressure of work, exhaustion and burnout,” he said.

“Almost two thirds of survey participants said increasing bureaucracy, poor job satisfaction and disillusionment with the medical system or Medicare were obstacles to working in general practice.”

Assoc Prof Brett said the early retirement of large numbers of GPs would contribute to the growing shortage of doctors in Australia.

“A shortage of doctors in general practice will have repercussions at all levels of the health system. It will inevitably put more pressure on hospitals and slow the discharge of patients back into their communities,” he said.

Survey respondents said the most enticing incentives to continue working until the standard retirement age would be better remuneration, better staffing levels and more general support or access to flexible working hours or a lighter workload.

More female (75%) than male (59%) doctors intended to continue working at least until the age of 65.  Assoc Prof Brett said this might be because female doctors were more satisfied with their work – which was often conducted on a part-time basis.