Less need for locum doctors anticipated

Locum doctors continue to be used frequently at Oamaru Hospital, but their services soon may be required less.

During a November 2018 meeting called by Waitaki District Health Services (WDHS), the Waitaki District Council-controlled organisation that owns and operates the hospital, chief executive Ruth Kibble addressed the issue of the company’s reliance on locums and the long hours they worked.

Locums are used at the hospital as required, mainly to cover weekends and staff leave.

"Previously, in the weekends, doctors have worked for 63 hours on end. I have said that is not acceptable ... We are committed to changing that and employing our own doctors so that we can have good-quality clinical services," she said at the meeting.

In a brief response to questions put to her by the Otago Daily Times about the present use of locums, Mrs Kibble said the company was not yet in a position to fill all shifts with its own staff.

However, its reliance on them was likely to decrease, she said.

"Oamaru Hospital continues to use locum doctors to cover shifts. However, we have two permanent doctors starting later this month, and are in discussions with some others. We are delighted to have now attained accreditation as a provider for the registrar training programme within the specialty of rural hospital medicine. As a result of this we are now in discussions with doctors who are keen to fill these positions."

She was not able to answer questions such as how many hours locums worked, how much WDHS spent on them and what impact it was having on its financial position, she said yesterday.

The company reported a deficit of $566,740 for the six months to December 31, 2018, which former WDHS chairman Chris Swann said in March last year was a result of locum doctors being used, a practice which continued well into 2019.

At the time he said it was an issue that was being addressed as the hospital recruited more doctors.

The company’s annual report for the 2018-19 financial year is yet to be published.


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