Working for better health care in New Zealand

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) is the professional association and union uniting doctors and dentists in New Zealand.

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Health Minister needs to support senior doctor accord for the safety of the workforce

5 December 2018 Media Release - ASMS

The senior doctors’ union says the Health Minister needs to get off the fence over the issue of a safe staffing accord for hospital specialists.

“The Minister doesn’t seem to appreciate the gravity of the situation for hospital specialists,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

“Our research indicates about half of them are experiencing burnout, they’re dealing with workforce shortages of around 20%, and a quarter of them have said they plan to leave within five years. That should be keeping the Minister awake at night.”

Delegates to the ASMS Annual Conference in Wellington last week voted unanimously for a resolution calling on Health Minister David Clark to actively support an ASMS initiative for a safe staffing accord covering DHB-employed senior doctors and dentists ( Other organisations have come out in support of such an accord, including the New Zealand Resident Doctors Association, the New Zealand Medical Association and the Council of Trade Unions.

Dr Clark has subsequently commented that he is not yet convinced a safe staffing accord for public hospital specialists is the answer (

Mr Powell says an accord is a positive, strong step toward developing a safer working environment for hospital specialists, and the Minister can’t afford to be ambivalent about something so important.

“Senior doctors and dentists working in publicly-funded hospitals need to be able to provide health care for patients without jeopardising their own health. The current situation is neither acceptable nor sustainable.

“Dr Clark is leaving it to the health bosses to deal with.  But it has been their neglect that has allowed this crisis to develop in the first place.  Further, they have no appetite for addressing it.  Hospital specialists need the Minister of Health to be their political champion, not a fence-sitter.

“The Health Minister has an opportunity to provide leadership on this issue. If he doesn’t, he becomes the problem rather than part of the solution.”