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Doctors switching to locums threatens workforce

5 March 2008

Doctors switching to locums threatens workforce viability

Green Party MP Sue Kedgley says she was concerned to learn in the Health Select Committee today that 20 percent of the doctor workforce at the Southland District Health Board were locums.

"When 20 percent of the medical workforce is filled by locums, many working for only a few days or weeks at a time, this raises serious concerns around continuity of care, patient safety, and the viability of our medical workforce."

Ms Kedgley said she was also concerned to learn about the emergence of 'professional locums' - a growing number of doctors who opt to work permanently as locums, to avoid the stress and comparatively low wages of working permanently in the health system.

"The growing numbers of doctors choosing to work as locums poses a serious challenge to the viability of the health service. When doctors are constantly coming and going, there is no continuity of care, and it's easy for patient safety issues to emerge. It is also far more expensive to pay for locums, than permanently employed doctors.

The Southland DHB said it was paying a 25 percent premium for short term locum doctors.

"Clearly what is needed are better wages and reduced hours and stress for the permanent medical workforce. If there isn't a significant improvement in wages and conditions of service for doctors, we may find ourselves with a fluid, short term workforce which cannot provide the continuity of care that many patients need."


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