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Hutt Valley DHB running short on senior doctors

The Hutt Valley District Health Board is operating with a significant shortage of senior doctors, according to a staffing survey carried out by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists.

ASMS has been looking at senior doctor staffing levels across DHBs by asking clinical hospital leaders to assess how many full-time specialist positions are needed in their department to provide quality and timely treatment for patients.

The Hutt Valley DHB survey, which was carried out between August-October last year, found an estimated shortage of about 23 specialists across 15 departments.

That’s 26% fewer senior doctors than clinical directors estimate there should be, to provide proper care to the community.

Recent reports about problems at Hutt Valley’s maternity services, including the tragic death of a baby, have highlighted staffing shortages and pressures.

ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton says many of those who responded to the survey spoke about the shortages in the context of growing demand for clinical services and difficulties keeping up with patient needs.

“Staffing shortages lead to band-aid solutions which aren’t sustainable,” she says.

“They also throw up a lot of unseen stresses within the system. When senior doctors are so under the pump, they risk not only burnout, but have little or no time to devote to teaching and guiding other staff which is an important part of their role and key to the investment in the future health workforce”.

Despite an estimated shortfall of 23 specialists, the Hutt Valley DHB was only advertising 9 vacant positions at the time of the ASMS survey.

“There’s a clear disconnect between the lived experience of staff and the DHB’s official vacancy rate,” Ms Dalton says.

Hutt Valley DHB is the 13th to be surveyed by ASMS since 2016. The current national average specialist shortfall is estimated at around 24%.

Read the full results for the Hutt Valley DHB survey here.

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