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Workforce shortage threatens public dermatology service

Workforce shortage threatens public dermatology service

“More and more people will miss out on publicly-funded dermatology treatment if the current shortage of hospital dermatologists continues,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

“This group of highly specialised doctors within the medical workforce are facing a crisis unless something is done to bolster their numbers. They’re already seeing evidence of unmet need in their waiting rooms and clinics, and this is set to worsen as New Zealand’s population ages.”

Mr Powell was commenting on an article in the latest issue of the ASMS magazine, The Specialist, about the workforce shortage in public dermatology. The magazine has been sent to ASMS members and is also available electronically from

In the article, dermatologists Darion Rowan and Amanda Oakley say there is a real shortage of training positions for emerging dermatology specialists, a serious shortage of funded public positions for trained specialists, and a lack of dermatologists to apply for the positions that are available. They believe the current situation is unsustainable.

“We turn away about a third of people,” says Darion Rowan, who has worked as a dermatologist at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital for more than 30 years.

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“Some of them don’t need to be seen by us because their conditions are relatively minor, but we are also turning away people who should be seen. People are languishing out in the community with terrible skin conditions. It’s very unsatisfactory, and you feel for the patients.”

Mr Powell says these concerns are supported in a report published by Health Workforce New Zealand on the Ministry of Health website, and it’s now up to Health Workforce New Zealand and the 20 district health boards to ensure plans are in place to provide a sustainable public dermatology service now and in the future.

“Medical workforce shortages are endemic throughout the health sector,” he says. “Some of these shortages are obvious but others are less visible, although the effects are significant both for the senior doctors providing these services and for their patients who are bearing the brunt of years of chronic underfunding.”


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