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More negotiation posturing from senior doctors’ union leader

18 April 2013

More negotiation posturing from senior doctors’ union leader

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists’ (ASMS) Executive Officer Ian Powell’s use of Medical Council data to suggest there are significant issues with New Zealand’s specialist workforce beggars belief. The union’s response to the District Health Boards (DHBs) about the Medical Council Workforce surveys showing the steady and continued growth in the number of practising specialist numbers in New Zealand was to dismiss that data as “not precise”, “irrelevant and unreliable” and “horribly flawed”.

The DHB Employment Relations Strategy Group chair Graham Dyer, Chief Executive of Hutt and Wairarapa District Health Boards, said today that Mr Powell was once again selectively misusing data to promote the bogey of a supposed “workforce crisis” when there wasn’t one. Mr Dyer was responding to a statement released this week by Mr Powell claiming that newly qualified specialists were quitting at an increasing rate.

“Mr Powell has run the same argument consistently over the past nine years whenever he’s in pay negotiations with the DHBs. Over that time New Zealand’s specialist workforce has grown by more than 45% compared to a growth in the New Zealand population of just under 10%. The simple facts of the matter are we have a stable and growing specialist workforce, vacancies are low, turnover is low, and in general DHBs are able to attract and retain the doctors we need to deliver and improve the quality public health services New Zealand taxpayers receive,” Mr Dyer said.

“It’s telling that the data Mr Powell focuses on only goes up to 2010. As part of the last settlement, DHBs and ASMS agreed to target significant additional increases to the bottom of the specialist’s scale, lifting the starting salary for a newly qualified specialist by over 14 per cent (from $131,168 to $149,750 per annum based on a 40-hour week) from the beginning of 2012. Anecdotally the effect of this change has been positive but it occurred after the period Mr Powell chooses to look at.

“We’d recommend Mr Powell read the Treasury’s November 2012 report Health Projections and Policy Options for the 2013 Long-Term Fiscal Statement if he wants a considered analysis of the current strengths and challenges facing the health system.”

ENDS

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