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No more excuses on specialist shortages crisis

15 October 2019

Patients are increasingly being turned away for treatment and there can be no more excuses from the Government over properly funding district health boards to boost specialist numbers in public hospitals, says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists.

Ongoing ASMS staffing surveys in DHBs reveal an estimated shortage of medical specialists of around 24% nationwide.

“We will be publishing the results of the most recent completed surveys over the next few weeks starting with Northland tomorrow.”

“The shortage is acute and in some DHBs, patients who qualify for treatment are increasingly being turned away or are facing major delays,” Mr Powell says.

“Hospital specialists are paying for this underfunding with their health”.

ASMS research has revealed:

50% of specialists have been burnt out.
88% have had to work while sick and 75% while infectious.
44% are dissatisfied with their hours of work.
25% intend to leave public hospital employment over a 5-year period.

“This situation is dangerous for both patients and hospital specialists. It is the height of irresponsibility for the Government not to require and enable district health boards to allow this high-risk situation to continue,” says Mr Powell.

“The Government has procrastinated on addressing the specialist shortages crisis in public hospitals for nearly two years. Now it’s expecting to post a $7.5 billion surplus, the public and specialists who are bearing the burden of years of underfunding, have a right to expect action. There are no excuses left.”

ASMS acknowledges that the Government can’t fix the problems caused by nine consecutive years of underfunding overnight. But it should fund DHBs to a level which meet their real existing operational costs including addressing these critical shortages.

Mr Powell says “that would mean ensuring safe working hours and conditions for specialists freeing them up to improve the accessibility, safety, and quality of patient care. It would also remove the current burgeoning DHB deficits”.

“The government should not sit on the budget surplus waiting for a rainy day – that rainy day is here”.


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