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Report highlights better workforce planning needed

“surgeons report highlights need for better workforce planning”

“The report on surgical services in Australia and New Zealand highlights the need for better medical workforce planning and development in New Zealand,” said Mr Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, today.

Mr Powell was commenting on the report released yesterday entitled The Outlook for Surgical Services in Australasia prepared by the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. The report anticipates a growth of 33% in the demand for surgical services by 2021 (48% by 2031).

“Unfortunately in the 1990s workforce planning and development was severely neglected because it did not fit in with the then prevailing but failed political ideology of market forces and competition. Due to blinkered ideology New Zealand suffered nearly a decade of neglect in this vital area.”

“The Labour-led government’s decision to form the Health Workforce Advisory Committee in 2001 was a positive step forward. But that committee is seriously under-resourced to do the work that the health system needs. It is largely restricted to general issues and principles rather than detailed specific work. Its work is important but it is not enough.”

“The Health Ministry is also interested in medical workforce matters but it is isolated from the practical and operation workings and needs of the health system. The Ministry is disadvantaged by a lack of ‘hands-on’ practical experience and also lacks effective networks with health professionals at the workplace. It is largely reliant on management assessments which are often narrow and short-term. There is also the risk of the continued influence of blinkered ideology in the Ministry’s approach.”

“Senior doctors are attempting to address the need for rigorous workforce planning and development in our national collective agreement negotiations with district health boards that are currently underway. We want the national collective agreement to require district health boards to jointly work with senior doctors in developing agreed staffing plans and recruitment and retention strategies. Unfortunately to date boards seem to be seeing this as a threat to their own power and ducking for cover rather than a serious attempt to provide constructive partnerships in order to address a pressing need.”

“If we are going to address the serious needs facing the health system including those raised in the Australasian surgical research then district health boards are going to have to work with senior doctors as equal partners in workforce planning and development,” concluded Mr Powell.

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