EXECUTIVE 23 April 2018
Dear Member,

This is the second Executive Direct for 2018, reporting on two recent meetings of your National Executive – an informal meeting on Wednesday 11 April and a formal regular meeting on Thursday 12 April. We normally send members an Executive Direct after each Executive meeting and also put these on our website: www.asms.nz. The Executive will next meet on Thursday 21 June.

New ASMS National President Murray Barclay welcomed the new members of the Executive (Andrew Ewens - Waitemata, Julian Vyas – Auckland, Angela Freschini - Tairawhiti, Annette van Zeist-Jongman - Waikato, and Katie Ben – Nelson Marlborough) to their first meeting.

The informal meeting discussed the Association’s strategic direction, preparations for a meeting with Health Minister David Clark, and priorities for promoting distributive clinical leadership. The formal meeting discussed, among other things, the election of a National Secretary, arrangements for next year’s 30th Annual Conference, strategic priorities, parliamentary submissions, various reports of meetings and other activity, and progress on non-DHB collective bargaining.

National Secretary

The National Executive considered the election of the National Secretary for the new triennial term in accordance with clause 11.6(d) of the Constitution. Executive member Paul Wilson (Bay of Plenty) was the only nominee, and was accordingly declared elected as National Secretary. Dr Wilson has been on the Executive since 1999. The National Secretary along with the President and Vice President constitute the three national officer positions on the Executive.

Minister of Health

The Executive was pleased to welcome Health Minister David Clark to the meeting for an opportunity to hear about the Government’s priorities in health and to ask questions on matters relevant to members. Dr Clark’s broad direction of travel and commitment to our public health service impressed Executive members. Our prime concerns were around the parlous state of the senior medical and dental workforce in DHBs, including shortages, burnout and presenteeism, which Dr Clark appeared to take on board. We look forward to further meetings with him.

Developing ASMS strategy for 2018 and beyond

The National Executive considered a paper on options for the Association’s strategic direction over the next three years. Senior doctors and dentists are working in a challenging public health environment, characterised by rising acuity, growing health needs, greater difficulty accessing the treatment required, successive years of funding shortfalls, and poor management at both the DHB and central government levels. Critical to improvements are the following four inter-related issues:

  • responsible levels of funding for health services
  • implementation of patient-centred care policies
  • improving SMO working conditions for good health and wellbeing
  • implementation of distributive clinical leadership policies.

The paper outlined some areas for focused activity, including funding, workforce shortages, preparations for the 2020 DHB MECA negotiations, distributive clinical leadership, tax, social determinants of health and gender equity issues.

The Executive agreed with the broad strategy direction, and also decided to discuss the details further at a later meeting.

Employment Relations Act

The Executive considered the ASMS submission on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill. The Association believes the Bill will bring about a number of positive changes to the current Act, including overturning many of the amendments made by the previous Government. However, some changes have not gone far enough and there are other areas without change that the union movement wants to have changed.

The Association’s full submission is available at https://www.asms.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Employment-Relations-Amendment-Bill-2018_169461.10.pdf.

Health Practitioners Competency Assurance Act

The National Executive considered the ASMS submission on the HPCA Amendment Bill. This Bill seeks to implement recommendations from the 2009 and 2012 reviews of the HPCA 2003. The 2009 review “found that the Act was generally operating as intended but recommended a number of legislative amendments” to “clarify the Act’s interpretation and improve its operation”.

ASMS regards the Bill as a legislative red-herring tinkering around the margins of an Act to fix things that don’t need fixing, while the real risk of harm to the public – ongoing system failure – is ignored. Much of our submission concerns this point, and what is needed to ensure the conditions within which practitioners are expected to work are safe and ‘fit for purpose’. Unless there is transparency about the quality of working conditions, and the impact that poor conditions can have on patients and staff, those shortcomings will often not be addressed, and practitioners may be unfairly blamed and punished for any mistakes.

The Association’s full submission is available at https://www.asms.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/HPCA-Act-Amendment-Bill-submission-2018_169688.2.pdf.

Distributive Clinical leadership

Promotion of distributive clinical leadership was discussed at the informal meeting on Wednesday 11 April and then considered further at the Executive’s formal meeting the next day. It was agreed that the national office would look at a membership survey, a Presidential letter to members, and a Health Dialogue on the topic.

The Executive also considered the importance of providing further advice to formal clinical leaders, and the national office will investigate this.

Collective bargaining outside of DHBs

The Executive considered a report on collective bargaining for members employed outside of district health boards. There are now approximately 240 ASMS members employed by non-DHB organisations, and the number is steadily increasing. The ASMS industrial team also supports and advises a small number of members who work in smaller organisations or where there are too few (often only one) members for negotiation of a collective agreement.

30th year of Association

2019 marks the 30th year of the Association and the Executive discussed the possibility of a special event to commemorate this. The national office will develop a proposal for consideration.

International doctor conferences

The Executive approved the Executive Director’s attendance at the Marburger Bund General Assembly and the German Medical Association annual conference in Erfurt in early May.

Over the years, the Association has developed a longstanding constructive relationship with the Marburger Bund, which is the union representing all salaried doctors (including specialists and resident medical officers) in Germany. The Marburger Bund General Assembly will discuss, among other things, alterations to working time regulations and collective bargaining in the context of a legal decision constraining the right of unions representing professional staff, including doctors. This meeting is immediately followed by the annual conference of the German Medical Association which he will attend its first two days. The remainder of this two-week trip will be in London for meetings with the British Medical Association, academics and policy analysts.


The Executive noted another record year for ASMS membership, with a 5.4% increase in the 2017/18 financial year. This brought our membership to 4763, an increase of 347 people on the previous year (our DHB-employed membership increased by 333 to 4635).

Kind regards,

Ian Powell