Focus on young doctors not sustainable: union

The nurses' union says money was found to employ surplus graduate doctors, while hundreds of young nurses are missing out.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation said the Government provided extra funding to hospitals so all domestic medical graduates gained employment.

Health Workforce NZ, a unit of the Ministry of Health, rejected the claim of extra funding but said boards were asked to ''prioritise'' young doctors.

The medical recruitment market has tightened internationally, while more doctors are being trained. Boards scrambled to find the extra places for the doctors when the issue came to light in August.

This year, 24 new doctors were surplus to requirements, until the Government stepped in, and next year the number was expected to rise to 60, NZNO associate professional services manager Hilary Graham-Smith said.

She said the union had discovered that at least some boards were ''incentivised'' to take the extra doctors. Meanwhile, hundreds of nurses were being interviewed for very few positions, and fewer than half of them had jobs.

''Incentivising DHBs to take new graduate doctors is not a sustainable way forward for the health system in New Zealand. Having an agency in charge of health workforce planning who had no idea there would be more doctors than places this year is worrying.''

Health Workforce NZ acting director Dr Ruth Anderson said in a statement funding was managed within existing budgets.

''Health Workforce New Zealand did ask all 20 DHBs to prioritise the placement of New Zealand residents from New Zealand medical schools, but these first-year graduate doctors placements were not surplus to requirements, and funding for [graduate] places for 2013 medical graduates was managed within the current budget,'' Dr Anderson said.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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