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Bitter dispute could have unintended consequences

30 April 2019

Bitter dispute could have unintended consequences for senior medical workforce

A winner-takes-all approach in the acrimonious junior doctor dispute could have the unintended effect of making hospital specialists think twice about district health boards as employers of choice, says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

He backed comments by Middlemore Hospital intensive care specialist Dr David Galler today that a lack of trust is at the heart of the dispute between DHBs and the junior doctors (resident medical officers or RMOs) they employ (https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/388056/dhb-union-relationship-at-historic-low-senior-doctor).

“Resident doctors depend on DHBs for their training so there’s a real power imbalance in the relationship which DHB bosses need to acknowledge,” says Mr Powell.

“The relationship will not be helped by a winner-takes-all approach from DHB chief executives to gain total control over medical rosters in hospitals. The focus should be on building trusting relationships leading to agreed outcomes which will last over the lifetime of these resident doctors from whom come the next generation of hospital specialists.

“As it stands, there is a real risk that our future specialists will no longer look at DHBs at their employers of choice and more will consider going overseas for work. It is imperative New Zealand hangs onto the doctors we train as the senior medical workforce is already grappling with serious shortages (around 20%) and high levels of burnout (around 50%).”

He called for a longer-term view of the relationships between DHB chief executives with the medical workforce in public hospitals, and for political leadership behind the scenes to address the causes of the stalemate in the current industrial dispute.


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