National 19 April 2017
Dear Member,

Welcome to the 4th issue for 2017 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

Clinical leadership in district health boards

I was glad of an opportunity recently to discuss clinical leadership and the medical workforce in district health boards. This was in the context of an address to the New Zealand Medical Students’ Association clinical leadership conference at the University of Otago earlier this month.

Clinical leadership is a critical issue for our public hospitals and is essential for good decision-making, driving innovation and improvement, and the delivery of effective health care. To achieve it, however, DHBs must first address the serious vulnerability of their senior medical workforce.

Previous ASMS research has highlighted the prevalence of presenteeism and burnout among the surveyed senior medical workforce, and our latest research (soon to be published) shows that significant numbers of senior doctors and dentists intend to leave either medicine or their DHBs in the next five years. These issues, combined, suggest a workforce under stress where senior doctors are torn between a high level of commitment to their patients, to their colleagues and to sustaining the New Zealand public health system.

Sitting behind it all is an under-supply of specialist positions in public hospitals, worsened by the pending loss of specialists over the next five years at a higher rate than those coming into the system to replace them. The situation is challenging but I am confident it can change with persistent, strong and cogent advocacy.

The full text of my address is at

Women in medicine network takes off

The new ‘women in medicine’ network is off to a flying start, with nearly 3500 doctors and medical students joining a Facebook group for support, advice and collegial discussion.

The Facebook group is the first step in developing a strong network for women doctors in New Zealand, whatever their age or stage of medical career. It grew out of the ASMS research on burnout (published last year), which showed women hospital specialists were more likely to experience burnout, as well as further discussions about the need for a network by women delegates at last year’s ASMS Annual Conference.

Following those discussions, ASMS set up the closed Facebook group and established a group of moderators with broad representation (including SMOs, GPs, medical students, as well as ASMS and NZMA). Since then the group has grown rapidly, with members including women doctors practising in New Zealand, medical students, and women doctors who have worked in New Zealand previously and are now based overseas but who wish to retain their New Zealand medical connections.

The group has now taken on a life of its own, with wide ranging discussions about professional and medicine-related matters.

More information about the ‘women in medicine’ network is available in the ASMS media release ( or in the latest issue of the ASMS magazine, The Specialist (

The full report of the ASMS research on burnout, published last year, is available online at

I encourage you to join the Facebook group if you are a woman doctor and to alert others to its existence. This is an initiative that ASMS is very proud to support.

Did you know… about bereavement leave?

As a DHB employee, you’re entitled to reasonable leave on full pay “on the bereavement of someone with whom you have a close association”.

Your entitlement is found in MECA Clause 27.1 and is not limited in time (eg, to only three days) or to the death of a close or immediate family member. Each case should be considered sensitively and recognise your particular culture, family responsibilities and travel requirements. There is no obligation on you to ‘make up’ any clinics, after-hours call or weekend shifts missed during bereavement leave.

More information is in clause 27 of the DHB MECA (

Kind regards,

Ian Powell
Executive Director