OBJECTIVE: To provide a contemporary picture of the general practitioner and specialist obstetric workforce in Victoria.
DESIGN, PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: Postal census by questionnaire of all 317 Fellows and 961 Diplomates on the Victorian database of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in September 2003.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Sex, age and geographical distributions and patterns of retirement from and recruitment to the GP and specialist obstetric workforce in Victoria.
RESULTS: 244 Fellows (77.0%) and 652 Diplomates (67.8%) participated. The average age of Diplomates was 42 years; only 20% were involved in procedural obstetrics. Of GPs practising procedural obstetrics, 56% intended to cease within 7 years. Two-thirds of specialist obstetricians continued to practise obstetrics. Among those ceasing obstetrics, almost half had done so since 2000. Among Fellows ceasing obstetric practice, there is a peak in the 50-60-years age group, but cessation of obstetric practice occurred across all age groups.
CONCLUSION: The proportion of GPs involved in procedural obstetrics has fallen markedly over the past decade, with half of those ceasing practice in the 40-50-years age group. New GPs entering the workforce with the Diploma and overseas doctors are unlikely to meet the procedural workforce shortfall. Attracting the large cohort of doctors aged 40-50 years back to obstetric practice must be a priority. Given the pattern of retirements from obstetrics, there will be insufficient numbers of specialists to maintain current levels of service. The reasons include non-participation in obstetrics by new graduates and international medical graduates, the inadequate number of new graduates, and the predominance of women among specialists aged under 40 years, whose work output tends to be affected by family commitments.
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