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Shortage of hospital specialists ignored by agency

Entrenched shortages of hospital specialists ignored by Health workforce agency

Health Workforce New Zealand, which was set up to lead the development of the country’s health workforce, has failed dismally to address entrenched shortages of hospital specialists,” said Mr Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, today.

“The agency’s briefing to Parliament’s Health Committee before Christmas, as reported by the Committee, does not even acknowledge the fragile state of the country’s hospital specialist workforce.” The report can be downloaded.

“New Zealand’s widespread medical specialist shortages have been acknowledged in Immigration New Zealand’s skill shortages lists since they were established in 2004. The lists from that year onwards include almost every medical specialty. None have been taken off.”

“Entrenched, across-the-board shortages of hospital specialists are due to a combination of poor workforce planning and poor retention. Health Workforce NZ has done little to address either of these issues. Its solution to this problem is to deny the problem.”

“Twelve months ago we published a substantial document highlighting the vulnerability of New Zealand’s public health system because of the entrenched hospital specialist shortages that have become the norm. Despite plenty of opportunity Health Workforce NZ has never refuted our analysis which remains as valid now as it did then.”

“The establishment of Health Workforce NZ in 2009 was a positive move with the potential to concentrate attention on some long-standing workforce challenges. Instead it has degenerated to whitewashing a serious failure in government policy. To be credible Health Workforce NZ needs to tell the government what it does not want to hear instead of what it wants to hear.”

“Unwisely Health Workforce NZ simply takes at face value the propaganda of the bosses of district health boards who are more interested in brown-nosing the Minister of Health rather than supporting their overworked staff at the clinical front line.”

“It is more urgent now than previously to address these huge challenges, but it is clear major changes are needed at the agency to drop this stooge position and re-focus on the vital issues facing our health workforce,” concluded Mr Powell.


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