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Junior doctor shortage worsens

Hon Tony Ryall
National Party Health Spokesman

15 October 2006

Junior doctor shortage worsens

Hospitals around the country are facing huge increases in the cost of locums as the shortage of junior doctors worsens, says National Party Health spokesman Tony Ryall.

"Not only is the country facing a GP shortage, there's now a very real risk that many of our hospitals will not have enough house surgeons,” says Mr Ryall.

He is commenting on reports that of expected crisis in junior doctor numbers at Canterbury hospitals, which has managers expecting 26 vacancies. Auckland is reported to have 45 vacancies.

Mr Ryall is also releasing information from the Ministry of Health, which shows DHBs are estimated to have paid more than $72 million last year for locum medical staff, including junior doctors.

"This is another health workforce failure by the Government. So much money has gone into the health system but we're getting fewer operations and having trouble keeping our younger doctors in the country.

"What's needed is a focus on recruitment and retention. New Zealand needs to lift doctor training numbers. But also we need to address why young doctors are leaving.

“Clearly, we could offer more competitive salaries if personal taxes were lower. And more respect and trust from central government would help.

A Canterbury DHB manager is reported as saying many of the vacancies will be filled by locums, who cost 50 to 100% more than a salaried doctor.

"The cost of temporary medical staff, or locums, increased by almost a quarter last year, to over $72 million. The cost is up almost 50% in two years. While that's not all junior doctors, it does tell you that there are considerable shortages around the country,” says Mr Ryall.

“Many ordinary people would wonder why some of this locum money isn't better spent on basic salaries.”

Attached: Answer to parliamentary written question on outsourced medical personnel 2001/2 to 2005/6 (estimated)

Cost of Outsourced Medical Personnel since 2001/02
Last Yr
2001/02 2002/03 2003/04 2004/05 2005/6 Increase 2005/06
Full Year Full Year Full Year Full Year Full Year Est* Mar YTD
$000 $000 $000 $000 $000 $0
Auckland DHB 6,340 6,165 6,179 6,115 6,388 4% 4,791
Bay of Plenty DHB 2,800 3,209 3,548 4,255 6,141 44% 4,606
Canterbury DHB 4,472 5,532 6,125 7,041 7,077 1% 5,308
Capital & Coast DHB 643 895 1,296 1,627 3,353 106% 2,515
Counties Manukau DHB 1,995 2,372 2,814 2,390 2,659 11% 1,994
Hawke's Bay DHB 2,993 2,846 3,581 3,339 3,184 -5% 2,388
Hutt Valley DHB 961 877 899 1,028 1,720 67% 1,290
Lakes DHB 2 235 1,014 1,772 2,491 41% 1,868
MidCentral DHB 1,608 1,044 1,019 1,748 2,687 54% 2,015
Nelson Marlborough DHB 934 1,111 666 1,021 1,428 40% 1,071
Northland DHB 2,723 3,501 2,297 2,385 2,653 11% 1,990
Otago DHB 1,005 964 841 1,068 968 -9% 726
South Canterbury DHB 1,235 1,366 1,605 2,188 2,997 37% 2,248
Southland DHB 4,226 3,905 3,409 5,159 6,041 17% 4,531
Tairawhiti DHB 2,152 1,995 1,887 1,971 1,844 -6% 1,383
Taranaki DHB 882 1,186 1,300 2,031 2,008 -1% 1,506
Waikato DHB 3,189 2,834 1,994 3,644 3,437 -6% 2,578
Wairarapa DHB 30 1,338 923 1,056 1,925 82% 1,444
Waitemata DHB 4,792 4,799 5,064 4,113 6,649 62% 4,987
West Coast DHB 1,838 2,755 2,215 3,505 4,323 23% 3,242
Whanganui DHB 1,478 1,499 1,637 1,581 2,195 39% 1,646
Total 46,298 50,428 50,313 59,038 72,169 22% 54,127

Answer to Written Question 4507 (2006). 2005/6 figures are grossed-up from nine month data.
Source: BaP$ database, with data from monthly reporting templates supplied by DHBs
1. Outsourced Medical Personnel data was not collected separately for 2000/01
2. Auckland DHB does not separately report outsourced medical personnel costs in their templates, information
supplied separately by the DHB
3. South Canterbury DHB reports outsourced personnel costs under personnel costs not outsourced services,
information supplied separately by the DHB

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