Generalism 'a good thing' in health service

Minister of Health Tony Ryall has asked for help from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons - meeting in Queenstown this week - in increasing the emphasis on general scopes of practice.

Mr Ryall's speech notes were circulated among the 70 transtasman surgeons who participated in the college's annual scientific meeting in the Crowne Plaza Queenstown hotel.

The minister was unable to give his speech in person as he was attending the state funeral of former governor-general Sir Paul Reeves yesterday.

In his notes, Mr Ryall said an increased emphasis on "generalism" - such as general scopes of practice, general surgery and general orthopaedic surgery - was fundamental to the New Zealand public health service being able to cope into the future.

"I talk to many medical graduates considering dual training - general surgery and a sub-specialty," Mr Ryall said in his notes.

"This seems a good thing to me. New Zealand needs general surgeons to maintain their visibility in the public hospital service. I'd appreciate your advice on how we can encourage this further.

"And I am also keen to hear from your college about how we can improve systems in order to increase surgical productivity further to further reduce waiting times, increase patient satisfaction and the quality of care, and reduce the cost of doing this."

Mr Ryall said there were more doctors and nurses employed in the public health service than ever. However, there were still shortages in some specialties and in many rural areas.

He compared health-service cuts in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada with the domestic equivalent.

"New Zealand's economy has weathered the storm better than most. But we've been borrowing an average $300 million a week to protect and grow our important social services.

"This past year alone, the Government's cash borrowing has been around $20 billion. And it's within that context that this year's Budget makes a remarkable additional $585 million available for health initiatives - the biggest single item and close to half of available funding.

"Our commitment to protect and grow the public health service has seen the Government invest $1.5 billion of extra new money into the public health service over the past three years despite the worst economic situation in 80 years."


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