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Endemic Covid will expose lack of health workforce investment and cost lives - ASMS

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialist Toi Mata Hauora says endemic Covid is set to expose the long-term lack of investment and planning in New Zealand’s health workforce, costing lives.

The Government has detailed how the health system will deal with the expected increase in Covid cases.

ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton says frontline ICU specialists do not share the Government’s confidence around ICU bed capacity and there are real fears about what lies ahead.

"We have been repeatedly told by our ICU specialists that there has been no meaningful investment or expansion in ICU capacity and in many parts of the country staffing levels are running at unsafe levels."

"A number of our regional hospitals won’t be able to keep patients because their ICUs are so poorly equipped, meaning staff and patients will have to be juggled across different parts of the country".

One ICU specialist recently said they only had two specialists left in their department and if one is sick the other must work continuously. That senior doctor had recently worked 84 hours in one week - 14 of those unpaid.

All parts of the health system are under pressure and as more resources are shifted to deal with Covid, backlogs will get bigger and there will be even longer delays in diagnosing and treating patients.

"That is an added stress for senior clinicians who will be forced to make the tough decisions around further rationing of patient care," Sarah Dalton says. "Planned care is already being delayed due to overwhelming acute demand, even in regions which haven’t seen Covid cases yet".

Irrespective of the size and nature of any Covid surge the health system must make workforce planning and supply its number one focus. "It’s all very well to acknowledge the pressure our doctors are under, but it’s time for the Government to show some commitment to keeping them safe and supported which includes fair pay and decent conditions of work," she says.

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