Doctors in the Pacific

David A K Watters and David F Scott
Med J Aust 2004; 181 (11): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2004.tb06478.x
Published online: 6 December 2004

The medical workforce needs of the Pacific islands, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and East Timor (see map) are vastly different from those of their richer neighbours such as Australia and New Zealand. In these developing nations, 50%–90% of the population live in rural areas (as opposed to 10%–15% in Australia). Their gross national product (GNP) is US$500–$2000 per capita, with 2%–5% of gross domestic product (GDP) spent on healthcare (compared with Australia’s $20 000 per capita, with 9.7% of GDP spent on healthcare). In Australia and New Zealand, there are about 2–2.5 doctors per 1000 population, while, in the Pacific, the ratios are about 20 times less, at 0.1–0.4. The age distribution of the population is also very different: 30%–40% of people are aged less than 15 years and only 5% are over 60 (compared with 20% under 15 years and 15% over 60 in Australia).

  • David A K Watters1
  • David F Scott2

  • 1 Department of Clinical and Biomedical Sciences, University of Melbourne and Barwon Health, Geelong Hospital, Geelong, VIC.
  • 2 Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Melbourne, VIC.



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