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Health Minister Priorities Welcomed

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists says under pressure senior doctors and dentists will be pleased to hear a commitment from the new Health Minister to look at staffing shortages and prioritise medical workforce planning.

Andrew Little spoke to about 170 senior doctors at the ASMS Annual Conference in Wellington which had the theme Building the Workforce Pipeline, Stopping the Drain. He said the idea there is no plan for workforce renewal and development seems criminal to him.

ASMS President Professor Murray Barclay says that will resonate with specialists who are struggling with an estimated 24% nationwide shortage and high levels of burnout.

He says “other priorities outlined by the Minister, such as improving access to primary health care, easing pressure on crowded emergency departments, closing the gender pay gap in the specialist workforce, along with a firm focus on health equity and the social determinants of health, also line up with our own priorities”.

The Minister said his overarching focus will be leading the implementation of the Health and Disability System Review. He outlined that he would like to see some of the key changes pushed through within 18 months to two years, rather than the five-year timeline suggested by the Review.

Professor Murray Barclay says that could concern some ASMS members, particularly the planned structural changes around reducing the number of DHBs.

“In our view that type of major structural change is not a priority and rushing it may unduly add to the pressures which DHBs and clinicians are under. There are more urgent health issues which the Government needs to turn its attention to”.

The Minister has signalled that the health sector is in for a period of significant change. ASMS will continue to advocate strongly for ongoing health investment that tackles rising acute patient demand for services.

“None of us want a system in which children are being anaesthetised to have their rotten teeth pulled out and hundreds of thousands of adults are missing out on care altogether,” says Professor Barclay.

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