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Radiologist situation highlights shortages

Friday, 1 September 2006

Radiologist situation highlights workforce shortages

The use of overseas radiologists to read x-rays over the internet is risky and shows the extent of New Zealand's medical workforce shortages, says the New Zealand Medical Association.

An American company has been contracted to read x-rays for Hawkes Bay District Health Board. Its radiologists, who have US registration, are based in countries such as Pakistan, India, Lebanon and Australia. "Such a practice is very risky for New Zealand patients," said NZMA Chairman Dr Ross Boswell. "The radiologists involved are not registered to work in New Zealand, are unfamiliar with New Zealand conditions, and are not covered by New Zealand's disciplinary system.

"If a mistake is made, does the radiologist have any accountability in New Zealand? We think this is very unlikely."

Dr Boswell said while the NZMA understood the difficult situation faced by Hawkes Bay DHB, which had recently lost a number of radiologists, using overseas-based radiologists was not the right answer.

The Hawkes Bay situation highlighted the ongoing problems with workforce shortages in medicine. The NZMA has been at the forefront of urging the Government, for many years, to take action to solve these problems.

"Shortages in many medical specialties is not a new issue," said Dr Boswell. "The NZMA has long called for a comprehensive strategy to ensure there are enough doctors to work in New Zealand.

"Many official reports have been written about the workforce situation. We know what the problems are, and now it is time for solutions. The Minister of Health has promised to set up an 'Action Group' to tackle these problems. Action is long overdue and is needed now."


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