29 Mar 2011

Australia's high locum rates 'not damaging NZ'

8:00 pm on 29 March 2011

Health authorities say high locum rates for New Zealand doctors working in Australia are not new and are not damaging the country's health system.

Junior doctors say New Zealand doctors are earning $8000 a weekend for temporary shifts in Australia.

The MedRecruit locum agency says New Zealand doctors are not only getting those sums for weekend work but increasingly for longer periods as well.

The junior doctors' union says the situation is exacerbating doctor shortages.

But district health boards say that, while there are pockets of shortages, overall the situation has not worsened.

Health Workforce New Zealand says this country has 500 more doctors than it had a year ago and is attracting a growing number of Australian medical graduates.

It says the high locum rates across the Tasman indicate that the Australian - not the New Zealand - health system has problems.

Chief executive Des Gorman says it indicates desperate doctor shortages, as locums are not good for teamwork or patient safety.

Post-quake gains and losses

Meanwhile, a senior Christchurch Hospital doctor says the hospital has lost and gained doctors since the February earthquake.

The acting head of the hospital's emergency department, Mike Ardagh, says the resignations of three doctors in the past few weeks weren't specifically quake-related, though it might have been a factor.

He says the hospital continues to be popular with British medical graduates, who come for a year or two and may stay longer.