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Source: Association of Salaried Medical Specialists

The loss of two long-standing orthopaedic surgeons at Wairarapa DHB will exacerbate an already serious staffing shortage at Wairarapa DHB, says the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists.

ASMS has just released the results of a staffing survey carried out in September last year which shows an estimated shortage of full-time senior doctor positions of 33%.

It has been looking at staffing levels across DHBs by asking clinical hospital leaders to assess how many full-time specialist positions are needed in their department to provide quality and timely treatment for patients.

Six out of seven heads of department at Wairarapa DHB responded to the survey.

The majority said they didn’t have enough specialists for their services and overall estimated a shortage of almost 7 full-time equivalent positions.

ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton says many commented that financial pressures on the DHB have impacted on its ability to recruit required staff and has led to a reliance on locums.

“The situation will only be made worse with news that the orthopaedic department is now down to one surgeon following a recent resignation and retirement.

“It’s worth noting that Wairarapa is a small DHB where staffing shortages are felt more keenly,” Ms Dalton says.

The ASMS staffing survey also highlights that senior doctors often work through illness, find it difficult to take sick or annual leave due to a lack of cover, and often don’t have time to help train and mentor other staff.

Despite an estimated shortfall of about 7 positions, the DHB was only officially advertising 2 full-time specialist vacancies at the time of the ASMS survey.

“It all adds to a national picture of a long-standing failure to properly invest in workforce training and the retention of specialists,” says Sarah Dalton.

Wairarapa DHB is the 14th DHB to be surveyed by ASMS since 2016. The current national average staffing shortfall to date is estimated at around 24%. The previous 13 DHB surveys revealed shortages ranging from 17-36%.

The full report of ASMS’ Wairarapa DHB staffing survey is here