Putting it in perspective

Easy way to reduce the shortage of doctors?

, posted: 22-Jan-2009 15:55

Simple!  Abolish their positions.  Ask anyone in the public hospital system and they will tell you that New Zealand, like any Western healthcare system, needs more doctors.  A situation that can only get worse as the demographics change over time.  Add to this the known issue that New Zealand struggles to keep its skilled graduates as it has an excellent education system and mobile workforce.

So when you have persistent shortages of doctors (and nurses) how do you overcome the growing gap between the labour force required and the labour force available?  Abolish the positions and stop advertising for workers. 

As reported on Newstalk ZB today the Auckland District Health Board is considering reducing the number of listed junior doctor positions by between 10-20%.  Politically this will look fantastic:

Minister to DHB:  Is there a recruitment and retention issue?
DHB to Minister:  No sir, we have very few vacancies for doctors at the moment.

But it doesnt avoid the issue that rather than recruit and remunerate talented hard-working healthcare professionals we'll rather share the burden amongst those that are still here to look after the sick and ailing.

This has all the echoes of the "How to reduce waiting lists" solution which says that if you havent been seen within 6 months then you have to go back to your GP to be re-referred to be on the list.  ie if not seen to within 6 months then you're no longer on the waiting list!  Naturally you'll need to be reseen by your GP who, I'm sure, doesnt need the extra work.

Next time you or someone you know is waiting for treatment at an Auckland hospital just remember that the Auckland DHB will be saving money by having you wait longer and longer and longer for service.

Comment by Linda George, on 23-Jan-2009 11:09

What about if the government applied 'user pays' to the scenario? I believe that as a society we ARE the users. Therefore we all pay. We will certainly pay if we don't have a working health system, therefore medical school should/could be free. The doctors-to-be could sign a contract that they would pay uni fees if they left the country, and the price could be reduced by the amount of years they stayed? Their take-home wages would go up without extra cost to the health system if they didn't have a loan to repay. Maybe even international students could fill in the gaps with a similar agreement. Food for thought...

Author's note by ockel, on 23-Jan-2009 15:03

I'm sure the National Government had announced a policy that constituted bonding doctors for a period of time to relieve the shortage in rural areas.

There are plenty of ideas and suggestions that could be debated amongst interested parties however at present the Health Minister declines getting involved (as did his predecessor now in Opposition).  And it's very difficult to debate potential solutions when the District Health Boards are adamant that there is no recruitment and retention problem in New Zealand.

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