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Big hospital wind down underway

Tony Ryall MP National Party Health Spokesman

20 April 2008

Big hospital wind down underway

"Hospitals have begun the big wind-down in preparation for the junior doctors' strike, with thousands of patients receiving letters cancelling long awaited surgery and specialist appointments," says National's Health spokesman Tony Ryall.

"Although the strike is for only two days, hospitals have already begun to clear the wards and free up senior staff to provide emergency cover. This means the impact of the strike will be effectively felt over four or five days.

"Many patients are having their care disrupted; from kids who have waited months and months to see an ENT specialist, to older people awaiting hip replacements.

"As many as 10,000 patients will face disruption, many will end up waiting months to be slotted back into the waiting list system.

"While the strike will cost hospitals many millions of dollars, the cost for patients and their families is much higher and far more cruel.

"The junior doctors' strike is a symptom of the wider health workforce crisis.

"Every week New Zealanders are seeing more and more evidence of staff shortages and bureaucracy out of control in health.

"Over the past eight years Labour has produced 43 reports of the health workforce crisis, formed endless committees and achieved little.

"New Zealand needs to do more to both recruit and retain its health workforce. If the country doesn't, then the bare-bones service hospitals are running for the next few days will become the norm.

"National's health discussion paper Better, Sooner, More Convenient proposes moving to medical training self-sufficiency, investigating bonding and student-loan write-offs for health professionals working in hard-to-staff areas, and a re-engaging doctors and nurses in the running of the health system.

"Labour has managed to recruit an army of more than 10,000 bureaucrats, but has utterly failed to plan properly for the changing population," Mr Ryall says.

ENDS

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