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“Off-line” ambulances sign of staffing crisis

29 August 2019

The dangerous practice of keeping patients waiting in ambulances for up to two hours is another sign of a system in crisis due to workforce shortages, says Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) Executive Director Ian Powell.

Mr Powell was commenting on this (paywalled) story in the New Zealand Herald:

It reports the comments of Australasian College for Emergency Medicine president and Waikato Hospital emergency specialist Dr John Bonning, who says it is common now for public hospitals to ask an ambulance to go “off-line” for up to two hours as the emergency department cannot take the patient yet.

“Patients’ lives are being put at risk in large part because of a severe shortage of specialists and other staff in our emergency departments,” Mr Powell says.

ASMS surveys of Heads of Department at our country’s hospitals are revealing significant shortfalls in specialist staffing. In the latest, at Waikato DHB, clinical leaders estimated they needed 48.6 full-time equivalent additional specialists – 27.6% of current specialist staffing at the DHB.

“It is little wonder the national burnout rate for hospital specialists is 50%,” Mr Powell says.

“Health Minister David Clark and National health spokesman Michael Woodhouse are bickering about whose government is to blame for the mess our EDs are in. The truth is both politicians’ respective parties have been like floundering fish when it comes to running the public health system.”

ASMS has been producing a series of videos of members throughout New Zealand talking about life on the front-line. Today, we are releasing that of Hutt Valley emergency physician Dr Tanya Wilton, who talks about the challenge of providing quality patient care in her ED.

Dr Wilton’s video can be viewed here:


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