22 Jan 2009

DHBs considering alternatives to junior doctor roles

3:35 pm on 22 January 2009

District health boards in Auckland are considering a draft proposal to scrap a number of unfilled junior doctor positions in hospitals and having the work done by other groups.

In letters leaked to Radio New Zealand, the DHBs say they are considering axing the positions and having the work done by other groups, in a bid to address a worsening shortage of junior hospital doctors.

The DHBs say they need an extra 500 junior doctors to be fully staffed in Auckland, but that is not achievable.

There were 160 vacancies for junior hospital doctors in the region in December and a high turnover of staff.

The documents show they are considering reducing junior doctor positions by 10% to 20% to match trainee numbers.

The DHBs say they would cut unfilled positions. The work would be picked up by senior doctors, nurses and a new group known as physician assistants.

Radio New Zealand's health correspondent says it is jobs on paper - unfilled positions - but the work still needs to be done by someone.

The DHBs say the point is to reduce their demand for junior hospital doctors to a level that is closer to the number coming from the medical schools each year.

Health Minister Tony Ryall declined to comment and is leaving the issue to the DHBs to resolve.

The Resident Doctors' Association says it is bureaucratic lunacy that will further reduce services.

Senior hospital doctors say it is a crude way of denying the issue.