Nearly one in five specialists could retire in the next
five years, creating a ''precarious'' situation, the latest
workforce report of the senior doctors' union says.
The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists has been
pushing the Government for years on what it sees as a lack of
will to confront a looming lack of senior doctors.
In its report, ''Taking the Temperature of the Public
Hospital Specialist Workforce'', released today, the union
says the sector will be 670 specialists short by 2021.
Specialists trained in other countries account for 42% of New
Zealand's specialist workforce.
''New Zealand relies heavily on overseas-trained doctors to
fill the gaps in its medical workforce but evidence shows
this will not be enough to cover the shortages of hospital
specialists being experienced now, and looming,'' executive
director Ian Powell said in a press release.
''We're looking at a perfect storm of increasing unmet health
need, a growing shortage of senior doctors and a greying of
the medical workforce that will have serious implications
down the track unless we act decisively to address these
Retention rates of overseas doctors have worsened in recent
years, possibly because of growing middle class healthcare
demands in Asian countries, Mr Powell said.
''There's been a political denial of the problem and there's
been a failure of district health boards to provide
leadership. They've essentially become political lapdogs.
''What we want is the Government to first of all recognise
that there is a problem, and secondly to sit down and work
with us on a path forward to address it.''
Starting work on the problem would in itself help attract
specialist recruits. Shortages put specialists under stress
through longer hours, and more weekends on-call, making jobs
Health Minister Tony Ryall's retirement next month was an
opportunity for a fresh perspective, Mr Powell said.
National List MP and Dunedin North candidate Michael
Woodhouse is tipped as a possible candidate for the job.
Last week, Mr Woodhouse refused to be interviewed by the
Otago Daily Times about his possible appointment to
the Health Minister role should National lead the next
''I am completely focused on helping National win the party
vote on September 20.
''I'm not looking any further than that at this stage,'' he
said through a spokeswoman.