‘No crisis’ – senior doctors beg to differ

Published: March 17, 2022

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Toi Mata Hauora says senior hospital doctors would strongly refute claims by the Director General of Health that the health system is not in crisis.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield is reported to have said there is no crisis in the health sector, despite Omicron stretching services.

“Covid hospitalisations are escalating, routine patient care is being postponed or cancelled, clerical and managerial staff are being asked to help out on the wards, and some staff are being offered special allowances to work extra shifts.”

Sarah Dalton says it all sits alongside an existing staffing crisis.

“We have emergency departments which are consistently overwhelmed, long waiting lists for specialist services and in some parts of the country patients have no access to a neurologist, dermatologist, or rheumatologist. Omicron simply underlines how unsustainable staffing shortages are,” she says.

And she says there is no relief in sight for a tired and burnt-out health workforce.

“Once the Omicron surge is over there will be the long and added burden on clinical staff to catch up on the backlog of deferred operations which will take years.”

ASMS shares concerns raised by a Royal New Zealand College of GPs future workforce report which describes a workforce “in crisis”, warning of a desperate need to increase trainees and projected retirement rates.

ASMS has long warned of a parallel crisis among hospital specialists. In 2018 the largest group of specialists was aged between 55-59 years. On top of our ageing senior medical workforce, if we want to catch up with Australian staffing levels, New Zealand needs an additional 1500 specialists right now.

“The decades-long failure to undertake focussed workforce planning and investment is now taking a massive toll on our remaining healthcare workforce,” says Sarah Dalton.

“This is a health system crisis which can no longer be ignored.”