03 July 2009

The NZMA is supportive of the SMO Commission’s report, released today, which confirms we have a SMO workforce crisis and makes recommendations on how we can begin to address the retention of our senior doctors.

“The Commission was set up to look at competitive terms and conditions of employment for senior doctors. The report states that retention among newly qualified SMOs appears to be deteriorating – dropping from 95 percent in 2000 to 89 percent in 2007. These findings make it clear that the Government must act without delay or it will impede the delivery of quality health care to patients,” says NZMA Acting Chair Dr Paul Ockelford.

“Our initial response to the report is very positive but of course we will need to look at the detail more closely.”

A core pay gap of 35% between Australia and New Zealand has been identified in the report.

“We are particularly heartened to see recommendations that terms and conditions offered should be more comparable to what is offered in Australia and other countries.”

“There is a highly competitive global market for doctors – both in terms of pay and working conditions. While it is a time of recession and cutbacks, the shortage of senior doctors is at crisis levels and the cost of not committing extra resources will be too high. In all likelihood it will lead to even further losses of senior doctors to overseas jobs.”

The Commission identifies the high level of disengagement of senior doctors by DHBs as the main ‘push’ behind the deteriorating retention.

The NZMA has long advocated that SMOs need to have a greater role in management decisions, particularly where these have an effect on the provision of health care services.

“We wholeheartedly concur with the report’s recommendations that effective clinical leadership and participation through strong clinician–management partnerships be put in place. This will go some way towards improving morale among SMOs,” says Dr Ockelford.

“We urge the Government to work with the profession to address the concerns raise in the report and to begin to make real progress in improving the recruitment and retention of our senior doctors.”

“The NZMA will be closely studying the detail of the report, and identifying issues on which we will advocate to the Government.”