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Tipping point reached in public hospitals

Hospital specialists around the country warn that public hospitals have reached a tipping point in a new report entitled: Hospitals on the Edge.

Produced by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, the report is released today ahead of the health union’s annual conference.

The impetus for the report is the rising concern of members about the increasingly unsafe state of our public hospitals and clinical services.

The report contains statistical analysis as well as comments from working specialists, who have requested anonymity.

Quotes from the specialists include:

  • “There was a stage earlier in the year when I cried on the way to work – I was just not looking forward to the workload I was going to face.” (pathologist/haematologist)
  • “We’ve had exponential increases in patient volumes over the past five years but there’s been no increase in FTE on the consultant or nursing side so effectively we’re being asked to just work harder.” (ED specialist)
  • We’re cancelling theatre lists routinely due to lack of staff and bed capacity. We are running about two months behind target for semi-urgent colonoscopies and are struggling to keep up with the demands of the bowel screening project. Short notice stress leave has become more frequent.” (surgeon)

ASMS National President Professor Murray Barclay says the Health Minister and the Ministry of Health must start listening to senior doctors and addressing the crisis, instead of minimising it.

“The effects of underinvestment, population growth, demographic change, workforce shortages, and poor decision-making have culminated into the crisis confronting our overworked and burnt out senior doctors and other health staff,” Professor Barclay says.

“If you don’t maintain a vehicle, it starts breaking down. Likewise, if you don’t invest in health, you will get increased numbers of patients presenting severely unwell.”

The report’s findings include:

  • Acute hospital admissions growing at more than twice the rate of population growth.
  • Emergency Department use growing at more than twice the rate of population growth
  • Estimated 430,000 children and adults with unmet need for hospital care.

The report contains a series of recommended actions for the Government.

Hospitals on the Edge is also the theme of ASMS’ annual conference, held this week (28-29 November) in Wellington.

The report can be read in full here: