NATIONAL 25 July 2019
Dear Member,

Welcome to the 9th 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

Invitation to MAS Talks 2019 event series

MAS, with whom ASMS has a close collaborative relationship including MAS sponsoring the visit to New Zealand of Professor Martin McKee for our 30th anniversary conference, is inviting members to an evening with award-winning Canadian science journalist Alanna Mitchell on climate change as part of MAS’ 2019 series of talks.

Alanna Mitchell regularly travels from the Arctic to the Antarctic and everywhere in-between. Her book Seasick: The Global Ocean in Crisis is now a critically acclaimed play that she’ll perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before coming to New Zealand for the MAS events in September.

MAS says her work on climate change is a perfect fit with MAS’ focus on sustainability.

She will be delivering presentations on:

  • Tuesday 10 September – Christchurch Town Hall, Christchurch
  • Thursday 12 September – Wellington Opera House
  • Friday 13 September – ASB Theatre Aotea Centre, Auckland.

More information about Alanna Mitchell, the events and how to register is available at and

Waikato DHB SMO staffing – significant shortage, contrary to claims

You might have heard or read media coverage of the ‘Waikato DHB Resource Review’ which claims the DHB employs too many specialists. The review’s shoddy analysis is contradicted by the assessment of the DHB’s own clinical leaders and also by official population data.

As part of ASMS’ series of surveys of clinical leaders at DHBs around the country, we asked departmental heads at Waikato about their SMO staffing needs – and the results, as elsewhere, were revealing.

ASMS distributed the survey to 30 HoDs at the DHB and received responses from 15, representing about 45% (176.3 FTEs) of the senior medical workforce at Waikato DHB.

Waikato is the 8th DHB to be surveyed. The average shortages across these 8 DHBs is 22%, with Waikato at the highest of this national disgrace (nearly 28%).

The main findings included:

  • 13 HoDs (87% of respondents) indicated they had inadequate FTE SMOs for their services at the time of the survey.
  • They estimated they needed 48.6 more FTEs (27.6% of the current SMO staffing allocations in their departments). At the time of the survey, the DHB was advertising just 25.5 FTE vacancies.
  • 40% of HoDs indicated their SMO staff were ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ able to access the recommended level of non-clinical time (30% of hours worked). Meanwhile, 47% said non-clinical time was accessible ‘sometimes’ and 13% said ‘often’.
  • 73% felt SMO staff had insufficient time to undertake training and education duties.
  • 61% believed there was inadequate internal SMO backup cover for short-term sick leave, annual leave, CME leave, or for covering training and mentoring duties while staff were away.
  • 80% considered there was inadequate access to locums or additional staff to cover for long-term leave.

The full results are available at

These results show that specialists are working significantly shorthanded in Waikato, which puts pressure on SMOs who are already grappling with high levels of patient need (this is a consistent feature of the other 7 DHBs). It’s directly counter to the shoddy claim of too many specialists in the Resource Review, which needs to be corrected. In fact, the identified shortfall at Waikato DHB is the largest of the eight DHBs we have surveyed so far.

The Government needs to act to address these workforce shortages. It is derelict in its duty to hospital specialists, to patients, their families and communities if it does not.

Did you know..?

In winter not a day seems to go by without a news story or commentary of the dramatic and fast paced climate change leading to adverse weather events.

Did you know that if an extreme weather event or natural disaster stops you getting to work, you may still be ‘entitled’ to salary for the day under your DHB’s Natural Disaster (Adverse Weather) Responsibility, which you might like to read. Your ‘right’ to receive salary in these events is not necessarily assured but the policy softens the general rule that, in return for your salary you have a responsibility to take all reasonable efforts to get to work on time.

Kind regards

Ian Powell