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Heart-op crisis symptom of workforce crisis

Hon Tony Ryall MP
National Party Health spokesman

9 May 2008

Heart-op crisis symptom of workforce crisis

National Party Health spokesman Tony Ryall says the revelation that waiting times for heart-artery surgery in Auckland have more than doubled is a further symptom of the workforce crisis at hospitals up and down the country.

“This is serious stuff, because many of these people could die on the waiting list. This crisis is caused mainly by a well-known shortage of intensive care nurses.

“For seriously ill people to have to wait an average of 64 days, and up to 198 days, in this day and age for such crucial surgery is appalling.

“Labour is proud of the fact that it has poured billions more dollars each year into the health system, but all it’s meant for people waiting for heart-artery surgery is that they now wait, on average, 37 days longer, and up to 79 days longer, than they did in 2002.

“This follows revelations that the waiting list for heart patients at Wellington Hospital has more than trebled since Labour became Government, and waiting times have lengthened considerably.

“And they are proud of these achievements?

“Unfortunately, it’s not just heart surgery and it’s not just Auckland – there are patients in every hospital in this country waiting longer for all sorts of service.

“This workforce crisis is at the heart of the ongoing conflict with junior doctors which is forcing the cancellation or operations and specialist appointments everywhere.

"There are huge staff shortages – from midwives, to mental health, to GPs, to hospital doctors – yet all Health Minister David Cunliffe and his failed predecessors have done is order more reports and more committees.

“He must get out of denial and do something about it.

“New Zealand needs to do more to both recruit and retain its health workforce so we can treat people sooner.”

National's health discussion paper, 'Better, Sooner, More Convenient', proposes a number of measures to start tackling the workforce crisis. They include moving to medical training self-sufficiency, investigating bonding and student-loan write-offs for health professionals working in hard-to-staff areas, lowering personal taxes, and re-engaging doctors and nurses in the running of the health system.


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