We are the union for senior salaried doctors and dentists.

We promote, protect and support the interests of our members in all aspects of their working lives. We are working for an equitable, accessible public health care system that meets the needs of all New Zealanders.

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Yours sincerely, disgruntled

17 August 2021 Blog - Letter to the Minister

One of our members has written a letter to the Health Minister Andrew Little, outlining their personal frustrations over workload, health workforce shortages and the position taken by DHBs and the Government in the MECA negotiations. We have anonymised it but it is a clear example of how our hospital doctors are feeling.



Kia ora Mr Little

I am a Senior Medical Officer and anaesthetist at ….  DHB.

I am part of a dedicated team which provides care and life-saving support daily, 24/7.

This is frequently at the expense of personal and family lives. I know that I have missed many family events and Christmases over my 16 years as an SMO. Our ability to take leave when we want or need it, even if applied for months in advance, is hampered by the demands of the DHB to push through to meet targets.

It comes as little surprise that 50% of the SMO work force suffers from occupational burnout. I know that after spending the last three days in the operating theatre doing major cases I am exhausted yet must continue to work the next three days, including the weekend to do acute cases. There will be little reprieve next week as I am back in the operating theatre on Monday afternoon.

This however is not just limited to the medical work force. The theatre nurses are greatly demoralised and leaving in their droves. As a result of staff shortages, we are having to close entire theatre lists and send patients home. I have never encountered this in my 16 years as an SMO. Furthermore, we are having difficulty replacing them.

The health system relies on the goodwill of those who work in it to “pull it through” but this is now failing, and it is occurring on your watch.

SMOs are the foundation and backbone of the health workforce. We are a highly qualified and highly specialised group which provides the high level of care the public of New Zealand expect and yet this government has sought to punish us for our efforts.

We have first been kicked with a 6% tax rise, which I admit is not specific to us. But now the negotiating committee of the DHBs, which does your bidding, now refuses to address SMO welfare issues in any substantive way other than by paying lip service. Furthermore, we have been slapped in the face with an offer of a 0% pay rise – this is despite ASMS reducing its request from a 4% to a paltry 1.5% pay increase. All the while inflation is storming along at over 3%, in real terms and we are worse off than we were a year ago. Australia is looking very promising for many of us where the base pay is over 50% more than we earn here.

What makes it even more galling is the proposal from the DHBs to spend $15 million on setting up a committee to look at job-sizing and clinician wellbeing, when this is already a process through ASMS! Not to mention the tens, if not hundreds of millions that will be spent in futility rearranging the health system, that will make little difference to the vast majority of the population.

So, my question to you as Health Minister is, why are you breaking and punishing those in the work force for which the public of New Zealand so depend? And what will you do when your senior work force leaves?