“How many times do alarm bells have to go off in the public health sector before the Government and hospital bosses sit up and take notice,” asks Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).
Writing in the latest issue of the ASMS magazine, The Specialist, he points to a myriad of signs that the health system is under unsustainable pressure. These include significant unmet health need in the community, comparisons with the Mid-Staffordshire hospital scandal, high levels of burnout and presenteeism among the senior medical workforce, and ASMS research showing that a quarter of surveyed senior doctors intend to leave either medicine or their district health board within the next five years.
“If the health system was our patient, we’d be rushing them to the operating theatre.”
Mr Powell says the tragic loss of sight by ophthalmology patients waiting for treatment is a clear example of the wider resourcing issues facing the health system.
“Public hospitals have been systematically under-funded since 2010 yet senior doctors and others are not seeing any drop-off in demand for health care. In fact, the very opposite – they’re struggling to keep up and there are some longstanding workforce shortages in medical specialties that are making the job of providing quality health care much more difficult than it should be.
“Any health leadership with a modicum of insight would hear the alarm bells ringing and start considering measures such as increasing the number of specialists employed by DHBs in order to make their working conditions more tolerable and reducing burnout. Alas, that’s not the case.”