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Incoming Double-whammy: Time To Declare A Health Workforce Emergency

“Health workers have a greater level of exposure risk to Omicron – and with the current requirements to stand down and isolate – it creates a double whammy for an overloaded health system trying to operate when even more understaffed than usual,” says Alistair Humphrey, Chair of the New Zealand Medical Association.

Today, the New Zealand Medical Association joins the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists in declaration of a health workforce emergency.

“It’s really tough to consistently deliver the world-leading patient care New Zealanders expect when our health professionals are stretched too thin,” Alistair says.

“For most of us who are vaccinated, if we become sick with COVID-19 we will only experience mild illness. However for children too young to be vaccinated, our immunocompromised whanau and others, they may need hospital care.

“With crowded hospitals, that may not be a possibility for many people. Despite their best efforts, doctors are not being resourced or supported to provide a level of care New Zealanders have expected in the past.

“Many patients are having to wait to weeks or more to see a GP. As a consequence, some patients are presenting to after hours clinics and emergency departments, where the waiting times in busy periods can be pushed up many hours. This is compounded by health staff having to put on and carefully take off PPE between patients – consultations are now taking much longer, even if they would have usually been relatively short.”

“Covid-19 will not be the last, nor even the most-deadly pandemic. Now is the time to recognise and invest in our hard working health professionals for the important work they do to protect the health of New Zealanders. If we all do our part, we can get through this together and be better prepared for next time,” Alistair says.

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