How to Fix Medical Workforce Shortages

How to Fix Medical Workforce Shortages

August 2, 2022

Current initiatives and yesterday’s announcements by Health Minister Andrew Little to fix medical workforce shortages are a band-aid solution to systemic problems within the medical workforce pipeline.


The New Zealand Resident Doctors’ Association, representing resident doctors, including registrars and house officers, training to be hospital specialists and general practitioners, is meeting Health New Zealand on Wednesday to negotiate a variation to the collective agreement which would help the government to tackle the ‘leaky’ medical workforce pipeline.


Union proposals to increase New Zealand medical student numbers by 200 per year, employ medical students in their final year of training, and guarantee senior medical officer employment to doctors who complete their residency in New Zealand will be discussed with Health New Zealand this week.


“We know that one of the main reasons resident doctors leave their training programmes or move overseas is concern about their future employment opportunities in New Zealand. The establishment of Health New Zealand allows the system to, for the first time, create long term job security for doctors on the pathway to specialist training,” said Dr Deborah Powell, NZRDA National Secretary.


“A recent survey of our members found that a guarantee of employment as a senior medical officer (SMO) upon completion of their vocational training would make a positive difference to their intention to remain in New Zealand for over 70% of resident doctors.  This would mean we would importantly retain doctors in NZ to assist with the shortages of SMOs.”


“We have widespread issues with short staffing and multiple rosters across the country where only half the required number of doctors are working. Fixing the medical workforce pipeline is going to require a massive bolstering in the number of medical students, and then a range of initiatives to keep doctors in New Zealand. Where there is a will there is a way, and we look forward to agreeing a way out of the crisis with Health New Zealand,” concluded Dr Powell.



Dr Deborah Powell is available to comment on 021 614 040