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Source: Association of Salaried Medical Specialists

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists is welcoming the Government’s dedicated $500m health package to fight Covid-19 but warns there aren’t enough doctors to go around.

The measures include strengthening intensive care capacity and setting up Coronavirus clinics throughout the country in preparation for a major outbreak.

ASMS has repeatedly warned of serious staffing shortages in our hospitals with an estimated 24% shortfall of senior doctors nationwide. A number of regions, such as Northland and the West Coast, are also desperately short of GPs.

ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton says funding for extra intensive care beds sounds promising as they would be required in the case of a serious Covid-19 outbreak, but the problem would be staffing them.

“There is absolutely no fat in the system in terms of extra staffing and you can’t just conjure up more doctors overnight,” she says.

“The situation will be exacerbated if hospital doctors themselves fall ill or are forced to self-isolate.

“Senior medical professionals are fully committed to caring for people with all disease, but in the case of a major Covid-19 outbreak, we have ongoing concerns about the pressures they and hospital services will be put under, and the ongoing effects of burnout and fatigue”.

Sarah Dalton says it is good to see a decent chunk of funding going towards boosting public health units.

“Our public health services have been undercooked for a long time, in the face of some significant challenges,” she says.

Senior medical staff will be pleased to see extra investment into hospital equipment as there were concerns that supplies, such as masks, were starting to dwindle at some DHBs.

“We know that senior doctors will put the patients first – we need them to be given assurances that their working conditions will be made as safe as possible,” Sarah Dalton says.