“There are shortages of doctors, especially in primary care, and more medical graduates should help,” said Professor Abbott. “However, they will need to receive a different sort of education that fosters the values, competencies and commitment to equip them to stay in New Zealand and make a positive difference at community level.”
This statement was made by Professor Max Abbott, AUT University Dean of Health and Environmental Sciences and Deputy Chair of the country’s largest district health board. He was commenting on a proposal to increase the number of medical students in New Zealand and on the workforce crisis in the health sector.
Healthcare areas with the worst shortages of staff are midwifery and dental services, both areas are need of urgent funding. There are shortages of doctors too, particularly in primary care. However, Auckland University of Technology is having to reduce some courses due to cut backs in funding, which come at a time when there are significant shortages of professional staff in some areas.
In May a report appeared on the Unison web site quoting Dr. Annette Huntington from Massey University’s School of Health saying that New Zealand had reached “crisis levels” in the shortage of nursing staff, with many new graduates from NZ nursing programmes lured away by the promise of better pay in hospitals overseas.
45,000 registered nurses make up approximately 60 per cent of New Zealand’s health workforce.
Professor Abbot’s solution is:
“We need to be much more flexible in our thinking about who does what in the health sector, especially in primary care. We need many more nurse practitioners and other health professionals who extend their expertise and scopes of practice. All health professionals need to learn to work more effectively in multidisciplinary teams and be more responsive to patients and communities.”
Maurice Drake, head of Nursing at Unitec, says:
“There are a number of possible reasons for these shortages, including low pay, stressful working conditions and increasing media scrutiny of healthcare professionals”
Drake also notes the difficulty trained nurses who have been out of the workforce have in returning to nursing, especially those with children. “There needs to be more flexible ways of working….training more nurses is not the answer, due to a lack of clinical placements for students.”