“The Health Minister’s annual ‘letter of expectations’ to the country’s district health boards needs to spell out the importance of fixing longstanding workforce shortages as well as the run-down state of our public hospitals,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).
“The Government is right to look at the work needed to address our embarrassingly dilapidated physical assets but it mustn’t lose sight of the people who actually deliver the health care communities rely on, often working shorthanded and with significant resourcing constraints. The problems they’re facing also need urgent attention.”
He was commenting on media reports about the state of New Zealand’s public hospitals, such as the problems with mould at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital and the Prime Minister’s comments that her government has inherited problems caused by years of significant under-investment in health (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/health/news/article.cfm?c_id=204&objectid=12025062).
“The Government is responsible for addressing the problems it has inherited, and that includes workforce shortages and other issues that place services and patients at risk. Senior doctors and no doubt others on the clinical front line will be looking for meaningful action from the Government to improve the situation.”
He pointed to previous ASMS research on revealing a dangerous 50% specialist burnout rate (https://www.asms.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Tired-worn-out-and-uncertain-burnout-report_166328.pdf) and workforce intentions revealing that over the next five years a massive quarter of hospital specialists are intending to leave public hospital employment (https://www.asms.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Future-intentions-of-the-New-Zealand-DHB-based-senior-medical-workforce_168309.4.pdf).
“Expecting hospital specialists to shoulder bigger and more complex workloads in an under-funded health system is taking a toll. The Minister of Health is due to send DHBs his letter of expectations shortly, and this needs to include a requirement to address the serious undersupply of hospital specialists. Patients are entitled to be treated in hospitals with a sufficient number of specialists so that their wellbeing is not put at risk.”