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'Emergency Department rosters need more doctors'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The country’s emergency department rosters are not adequately staffed to cover for doctors who fall sick and may collapse if Omicron spreads through New Zealand.

The New Zealand Resident Doctors’ Association, representing resident doctors in District Health Boards, is warning an Omicron outbreak could quickly overrun the country’s emergency departments.

"Most of the country’s emergency department rosters do not have cover for sick leave, so even small numbers of doctors falling sick or needing to isolate could create an unsafe situation," said Dr Deborah Powell, NZRDA National Secretary.

"When an emergency department doctor needs to take sick leave, short staffing means their colleagues cover their workload in addition to their own. When Omicron arrives and doctors start becoming unwell or needing to isolate in larger numbers, that is going to leave large gaps in the countries emergency department."

"We estimate the country needs about 100 extra resident doctors employed in emergency departments to cope with increasing patient demand and provide sufficient numbers of relievers to cover gaps caused by sickness," continued Dr Powell.

A recent survey carried out of NZRDA members working in emergency departments reported:

- 84% - reported their roster had no doctors available to fill sick leave absences.

- 67% - disagree or strongly disagree their ED is sufficiently staffed to cater to current patient demand, including demand from seasonal peaks.

- 63% - reported on average more than 10 ED patients waiting to be seen when they arrived to begin a night shift.

- 57% - agreed working in ED always or usually includes lengthy patient wait times or ramping (patients waiting in ambulances).

"Lockdowns, vaccinations and border restrictions were supposed to buy us time to prepare the health system. Those preparations must include assigning additional doctors to the emergency department to replace doctors who fall sick."

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