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Public Hospital Specialist Workforce Crisis Highlighted: Too Much Work On Shoulders Of Too Few

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

"The severity of the specialist workforce crisis in New Zealand's public hospitals has been highlighted in a paper released today," said Mr Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, today. The Association has prepared an issues paper which it hopes will better inform government, policy advisers, media and the general public about the severity of the crisis."

"Among the points highlighted in the paper are: By 2008 the specialist workforce shortfall had increased to well over 600 specialists based on international benchmarks. Another 1,300 specialists are estimated to equal Australia (population adjusted). In the OECD New Zealand has the second highest emigration rate of doctors; the highest dependency on overseas trained specialists (40%), and the lowest number of specialists per head of population (0.8 per 1,000). To meet the OECD average by 2021 New Zealand would need an average net increase of 380 specialists per annum. 29% of New Zealand doctors are working overseas; the second highest expatriation rate in the OECD (behind Luxemburg). Half of New Zealand's registrars training to be specialists leave New Zealand in their final year to take up their first specialist positions overseas, mainly Australia and mainly for better salaries and conditions."

"New Zealand is losing too many of the specialists we are training, the specialists we currently have, and many of the overseas trained doctors we struggle to recruit. This places those specialists remaining in New Zealand under increasingly intense workload pressure. Too much increasing work is falling on too few shoulders. Our hospital specialist workforce is fragile and is making our health system unsustainable."

"At the same time younger trainee specialists are looking to better work-life balance, more family time, and are less prepared to put up with these excessive workload pressures on their more experienced colleagues. Australia is providing them with superior work-life balance and much higher salaries."

"While the specialist workforce crisis continues the government has no chance of achieving its objectives such as improving the way we train younger doctors, increasing clinical leadership in public hospitals, and increasing health service collaboration between district health boards. We don't have enough specialists to achieve these objectives."

"We hope our paper will help shift decision-makers from a state of denial over the extent of the crisis to recognition that urgent action is required to overcome this crisis," concluded Mr Powell.

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