The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Toi Mata Hauora says a plan to clear patient waiting lists must be matched with a plan to address huge workforce shortages across the health system.
The Health Minister Andrew Little has announced a special taskforce and national approach to tackle hospital waiting lists caused by Covid.
ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton says a focussed and co-ordinated approach is welcome but the elephant in the room is the ability of an under-resourced and depleted workforce to do the work.
Even before Covid the health system was groaning with about half a million New Zealanders waiting for treatment, and estimated specialist shortages of 24%.
“We just don’t have enough people across every workforce group and there are large numbers of vacancies in almost every specialty service across the country. One of our members recently said he couldn’t remember the last time his team had done a planned joint replacement surgery due to entrenched staffing gaps.”
A nationalised approach to clearing patient backlogs is likely to see patients having to travel for treatment.
Sarah Dalton says having to truck people around the country is a band aid in place of properly resourced services.
“We are facing a recruitment and retention crisis which needs to be addressed in parallel with any plan to clear patient backlogs.”
“DHBs and the Government must realise that taking a black letter approach to public sector pay restraint and proposing pay settlements which ignore booming inflation will do nothing to retain or attract health workers who can go across the Tasman and double their salaries.”
“While it’s heartening for patients to hear that there is a plan for them to get the surgery or treatment they need, it would be even more heartening for exhausted health workers to know that they are also a priority, beyond simple thank yous,” Sarah Dalton says.