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Minister asked to put pathology back on short supply list

Senior doctors ask Minister to put pathology back on short supply list

The senior doctors’ union has asked the Minister for Economic Development, David Parker, to reverse his Ministry’s decision to remove pathology from the Government’s list of essential skills in short supply.

“Removing pathology from this list is a mistake and just piles more pressure onto a workforce already under stress,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

“It’s also likely to affect a wide range of other health services which depend on an effective pathology service.”

Mr Powell’s letter to David Parker, with copies to Health Minister David Clark and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, criticises the decision by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to remove pathology from the Essential Skills in Demand (ESID) list. It followed a similar letter from a clinical expert, which officials rejected on the basis that the number of visa approvals was too low to justify an ESID listing.

“Apparently, at least 50 work visa applications a year are needed, which is a nonsense for a medical specialty like pathology. Even combining all the medical branches of pathology, It will never be able to pass that threshold.

“At the same time pathology has been identified as one of this country’s top four hard-to-staff specialties, and pathologists have been in short supply for a number of years. Health Workforce New Zealand considers pathology a highly vulnerable specialty because there are relatively few trainees per current practising pathologists over the age of 50.”

Mr Powell says the MBIE decision undermines Health Workforce New Zealand’s efforts to respond to the long-term needs of an increasingly fragile workforce, and needs to be reversed immediately. He has also suggested that the process and criteria for reviewing the skills shortage lists be reviewed.

“This flawed decision to take pathology off the list of essential skills this country needs follows other poor decisions by bureaucrats which have ignored expert clinical advice. For example, the inexplicable decision by the Ministry of Justice to dismantle New Zealand’s national forensic pathology service in the face of clinical advice.”

ASMS has repeatedly asked Justice Minister Andrew Little to intervene to prevent a collapse of forensic pathology services, but to date he has refused (

“These services are so important to New Zealand and it’s disheartening for the medical specialists working in them to have their concerns fall on deaf ears. These decisions should be based on expert clinical advice, not remote non-experts.”


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