NATIONAL 1 August 2019
Dear Member,

Welcome to the 10th issue for 2019 of ASMS Direct, our national electronic publication. 

You can also keep in touch with the latest news and views on health issues relevant to public hospital specialists via our website, which contains links (at the top of the home page) to our Facebook and LinkedIn pages, as well as our quarterly magazine The Specialist. We’re also on Twitter at

Medical Protection Society

ASMS is aware of some inaccurate insinuations about the Medical Protection Society, and we wish to set the record straight with members. These insinuations relate particularly to the suggestion that MPS professional indemnity does not provide the appropriate cover required by DHBs. This has led to understandable confusion and anxiety among MPS members, many of whom are also our members.

These insinuations about MPS are wrong. MPS is a recognised provider by every DHB for comprehensive professional indemnity. It indemnifies a sizable majority of DHB-employed doctors and dentists.

All MPS membership services for New Zealand are run out of New Zealand, with 18 staff on the ground, including senior management positions. MPS is a mutual (an organisation owned by its policy holders or customers rather than shareholders), which means that it is responsible only to its members and not shareholders who seek to profit from membership subscriptions or insurance premiums.

The ASMS MECA covering members employed by DHBs is explicit in respect of indemnity. Clause 21.2 requires DHBs to meet the cost of or reimburse membership of the MPS, no questions asked, in the same way that college membership is reimbursed. This was first negotiated in the 1990s at a time when some crown health enterprises (which preceded DHBs) were attempting to influence who should indemnify SMOs.

It would have been difficult to achieve this if MPS was a private company instead of a mutual. The MECA does allow for alternative indemnity arrangements to be covered but this requires the agreement of both the individual DHB and SMO.

The benefits of the ASMS-MPS relationship include a high level of collaboration between our industrial team and MPS medico-legal advisers on behalf of members where there is an overlap between medico-legal and employment law. This collaboration has been enormously beneficial for affected members, including preventing unfair reputational damage and saving careers.

MPS also owns the Cognitive Institute which is an impressive not-for-profit organisation providing quality programmes and support, including the ASMS-supported ‘Speaking up for safety’, which is currently being implemented in a number of DHBs with the objective of addressing negative behaviours including bullying.

Message to the Health Minister: The fires are burning and you are running out of time

I delivered an address to the Hospital and Community Dentistry Conference again this year, this time in Napier – and included a strong message to Health Minister David Clark and his Labour-led Government.

As always, my comments were personal observations, and given that it was my final address to this conference, I was somewhat blunter than perhaps in previous years. For example, I made the point strongly that I considered there had been a number of missed opportunities to demonstrate the differences in health policy between this Government and its predecessor. I also expressed concern about the lack of adequate attention by this Government to workforce shortages, DHB deficits and health resourcing in general, and to the Government’s refusal to show political leadership in the DHB-RDA dispute.

The full copy of my speech can be read at

Media coverage included this in the New Zealand Herald and

The Minister’s response has been largely confined to claiming I don’t understand that it takes so long to train a doctor. This misses the point that the speech focused on retention with so many specialists burnt out and so many intending to leave DHB employment due to job dissatisfaction. Further, with shortages in the vicinity of 22% but DHBs only recognising between one-third to one-half of them as official vacancies, there is a desperate need for an awakening and a much more active recruitment strategy.

ASMS Annual Conference registration opens

We’re now seeking expressions of interest in attending the ASMS Annual Conference in Wellington on 28-29 November. The conference will be held at Te Papa and, as always, provide valuable insights into issues relevant to your work from a range of stimulating, expert presenters. There are also opportunities to network with your SMO colleagues from around the country.

All financial members of ASMS can attend regardless of who employs you; ie, not just DHBs but also employers such as ACC, Family Planning, community trusts, union health centres and hospices.

If you would like to register your interest for the Conference, more information is available at This also includes details of provisions for leave, travel and accommodation.

Please enter the date into your diaries and also advice ASMS Support Services Administrator Angela Randall at if you would to attend.

Kind regards,

Ian Powell