Child specialist shortage at hospital ameliorated

Photo: ODT files
Dunedin Hospital. Photo: ODT files
The shortage of children’s medical staff that sparked a review at Dunedin Hospital last year has been partly addressed, but recruitment will continue.

Recent data showed the number of fulltime-equivalent (FTE) registrars in the department has jumped 29.9%.

However, Health New Zealand Te Whatu Ora (HNZ) Southern is still seeking another two registrars for the paediatric ward and neonatal intensive care unit.

Last May, the lack of children’s registrars — then 9.7 FTEs — was reviewed amid staff concern about workloads and the risk of multiple incidents occurring at the same time.

HNZ Southern group director of operations Hamish Brown said last week the review had resulted in the employment of more health workers to cater for patient needs.

"This year, we employed four additional registrars and we are also recruiting for a new nurse practitioner position.

"We hope to add another two registrars to the service in 2025."

Asked for a current update on the number of children’s registrars, he said the number was 12.6 FTE as of April.

Paediatric and NICU capacity was unchanged.

The number of staffed paediatric beds was 16.

"The number of cots in NICU also remains unchanged, with five intensive care cots and 11 special care cots."

A report on the situation aimed at securing more funding was withheld by HNZ last year when requested by the ODT under the Official Information Act, in order to protect "free and frank" expression of opinion.

In a brief summary of contents of the documents, HNZ said Southern was proposing a new model of care for staffing in the paediatric ward and the NICU.

"The draft document sets out the background of the current paediatric and neonatal intensive care unit service and future planning to safely provide care to our patients and their whanau."