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Urgent Action To Address Recruitment And Retention

“Urgent Action Needed To Address Growing Hospital Doctor Recruitment And Retention Crisis”

“Urgent action is needed to avoid the growing recruitment and retention crisis for public hospital senior doctors. The current crisis for radiation specialists is the tip of a much larger iceberg,” said Mr Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, today.

“This crisis is largely due to a combination of a decade of neglect under the former ideological commercial system of the 1990s that ignored the importance of workforce planning and increasing superior international conditions and shortages.”

“Health Minister Annette King deserves credit for trying to resolve this inherited problem through immediate actions such as improving immigration flexibility and her longer term approach to workforce planning.”

“However, more action is required. Employment conditions for all senior hospital doctors require collective improvement especially in areas where New Zealand is uncompetitive. Obviously salaries are important. It is affordable to significantly increase senior doctor remuneration because they are a small part of the total health workforce costing around 3-5% of public hospital budgets.”

“But there are other non-salary conditions linked to rest from a highly stressful job and professional education that are also important for recruitment. Examples are annual leave, sabbatical, secondment and reimbursement of education expenses. New Zealand is internationally uncompetitive in all these areas.”

“One of the most significant and novel things that could be done is for the new district health boards to actively support our campaign for senior doctors to have more time to focus on quality improvement initiatives such as peer review, teaching and clinical audit. Our professional assessment is that this requires at least 30% of a senior doctor’s routine duties. Health bosses should embrace this approach which would give New Zealand a competitive edge and greatly assist common quality objectives.”

“Trying to fix the radiation crisis alone without a wider strategy risks creating inequity and extending the crisis to other services that are already vulnerable and facing shortages. There are innovative solutions but it requires managers and government working with us thinking across the board and outside the square,” concluded Mr Powell.

Ian Powell


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