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Government Must Act On Medical Workforce Crisis

26 October 2005

Government Must Act On Medical Workforce Crisis

New Zealand First’s health spokesperson Barbara Stewart says that immediate Government action is needed to deal with the medical workforce shortages becoming increasingly apparent throughout the country.

“Currently each District Health Board is responsible for the recruitment and retention of health practitioners and for ensuring that health services are delivered in their particular area.

“Apart from formulating endless plans and establishing reference groups, the Government has so far taken no responsibility for the resulting lack of structure and co-ordination in the health sector,” said Mrs Stewart.

“This hands-off strategy means that some District Health Boards face monumental difficulties in providing adequately for their populations. Not only are specialists in short supply but GP numbers are falling as fewer junior doctors enter general practice.

“The looming crisis is nowhere better illustrated than in Gisborne, where the hospital’s waiting list has been described as ‘huge’.

“According to a report in the Gisborne Herald this week 746 patients who had been ‘prioritised as routine’ have been waiting longer than six months for their first specialised assessment, up 79 on previous months. Another 426 patients who have been given a commitment to receive treatment had yet to receive it within six months.

“Vacancies in key medical positions necessitated recruiting in orthopaedics, anaesthetics, general medicine and obstetrics and gynaecology.

“Given that the Government’s stated aim is that anyone who has been given certainty of treatment should not wait more than six months, this state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue. The new Minister of Health must place this issue at the top of his must do list, rather than in the too hard basket as at present,” said Mrs Stewart.

ENDS

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