Hospital director says Counties Manukau DHB is addressing senior staffing shortfalls

There's an estimated shortage of 44 senior medical staff at Middlemore Hospital, according to a recent ASMS survey.
JARRED WILLIAMSON/STUFF

There's an estimated shortage of 44 senior medical staff at Middlemore Hospital, according to a recent ASMS survey.

 Counties Manukau District Health Board has recognised a need to meet demand for more senior doctors.

A recent survey by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) revealed a shortfall of senior hospital staff at the DHB.

In response, hospital services director Phillip Balmer says the board is working as quickly as possible and is recruiting an additional 42 senior medical officers.

In the past five years the DHB has increased its medical staff numbers by 19 per cent, Balmer says, and of its 850 medical staff, 440 of those are senior.

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He says the recruitment delays are due to international workforce shortages in anaesthesia, radiology, psychiatry and ophthalmology services.

Where it's not successful in recruiting, the DHB is also using locum agencies and international companies, he says.

Balmer says the board is also planning its workforce growth in advance.

"We need to get ahead of the demand curve, not behind it," Balmer says.

"We are looking at three and 10 year planning horizons for workforce and facilities and doing all we can to ensure we are ready to meet the challenges next winter will bring."

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The ASMS survey, conducted between October 2016 and April 2017, involved clinical leaders to assess how many senior full-time equivalents were needed at the DHB.

Seventeen of the DHB's 30 heads of departments took part in the survey, which found the majority of them estimated they need 44.7 more full-time staff.

The HoDs also indicated their senior staff had insufficient time to undertake non-clinical work, training, and education duties.

ASMS executive director Ian Powell says the results are concerning and shows the public health system is bearing the brunt of inadequate Government resourcing.

"We have an extraordinary situation where senior hospital doctors – and no doubt other clinical staff at the DHB – are working shorthanded and struggling to cope," Powell says.

"Yet the DHB's management is looking at drastic measures to deal with the ongoing budget constraints the Government has repeatedly failed to address."

Ministry of Health system outcomes group manager Sam Kunowski says Counties Manukau DHB is responsible for its own staffing and funding.

Kunowski says the Ministry expects DHBs are spending their bulk funding as effectively as possible for their populations.

Powell says the staffing shortages also stand in stark contrast to the DHBs recent admission it was offering voluntary redundancies.

Balmer says the voluntary cessation scheme is designed to increase the hospital's frontline staff to support the sustained pressure it's facing in winter.

 - Stuff

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