National 30 May 2018
Dear Member,

Welcome to the 8th issue for 2018 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

Your ASMS branch officers from 1 July

Nominations have now closed for the ASMS branch officer positions (President and Vice President) for the 2018-21 triennial term commencing 1 July.

  1. Northland: President – Jenny Henry; Vice President – Ian Page
  2. Waitemata: President – Jonathan Casement; Vice President – Keat Lee
  3. Auckland: President – Helen Pilmore; Vice President – Susan Farrelly
  4. Counties Manukau: President -  Sylvia Boys
  5. Waikato: Vice President - Alison Stern
  6. Tauranga: President – Rod Gouldson; Vice President – William McAuley
  7. Whakatane: President –  Richard Foster; Vice President – Kathy Sutton
  8. Rotorua: President - Andrew Robinson; Vice President – Philip Gartland
  9. Taranaki: President – Allister Williams; Vice President –  Allan Binnie
  10. Tairawhiti: President - Mary Stonehouse; Vice President William Weiderman
  11. Hawke’s Bay: President –  Kai Haidekker; Vice President –  Debra Chalmers
  12. Manawatu: President –  Andrew Spiers; Vice President – John Bourke 
  13. Whanganui: President –  Bernd Kraus; Vice President – Mark Van De Vyver
  14. Wairarapa: President - Norman Gray
  15. Hutt Valley: President – Neil Stephen; Vice President –  Tanya Wilton
  16. Wellington: President – Justin Barry-Walsh; Vice President – Alain Marcuse
  17. Marlborough: President – Jeremy Stevens; Vice President –  Graeme French
  18. Nelson: President – Katie Ben; Vice President –  Gareth Harris
  19. West Coast: President Stuart Mologne
  20. Canterbury: President –  Geoff Shaw; Vice President – Siobhan Cross
  21. South Canterbury: President –  Mathew Hills; Vice President – Peter Doran
  22. Otago: President –  Chris Wisely; Vice President –John Chambers
  23. Southland: President – Roger Wandless; Vice President – Leonard Chia

There was more than one nomination received for the Waikato Presidency and Wairarapa Vice Presidency positions. Elections for these two positions will now be held. There were no nominations for the Counties Manukau Vice Presidency and West Coast Vice Presidency. New calls for nominations will be sent out soon.

I wish to acknowledge the work of previous branch officers who have decided not to stand again, and to thank everyone who has put their name forward.

Health Minister’s Letter of expectations to DHBs a missed opportunity to address workforce crisis

Health Minister David Clark has send his first annual letter of expectations to DHB chairs – and while there is a lot that is good in the letter, it really misses the boat when it comes to addressing SMO workforce shortages and the impact of years of under-resourcing.

On the positive side, the letter of expectations spells out the Government’s health priorities as primary care, mental health, public delivery of health services, and improved equity in health outcomes. I know this will be welcome news to you all, and the focus on public delivery of health services which represents a significant change in approach from the previous government.

However, unfortunately the letter does not require DHBs to address the precarious state of their specialist workforce and it continues the previous Health Minister’s decision to ignore the importance of clinical leadership in DHBs. This is very disappointing and represents a significant and serious oversight.

ASMS research shows high levels of burnout (50%) among hospital specialists (, along with presenteeism, including working while infectious ( and with 25% of specialists surveyed intending to leave DHB employment in the next five years (

ASMS drew these issues to the Health Minister’s attention in its Briefing to the Incoming Minister in October last year (

The workforce section of the Minister’s letter of expectations fails to fully grasp the significance and impact of the serious specialist shortages that hospitals are dealing with. It also doesn’t acknowledge the failure of the Ministry of Health, Health Workforce New Zealand and the DHBs themselves to adequately plan for the country’s medical workforce needs.

Dr Clark also unfortunately continues his predecessor’s decision to ignore the importance of clinical leadership for DHBs. Clinical leadership is the key lynchpin that will help DHBs turn their situation around, and it’s very disappointing that it has been ignored in this letter. It’s clinical leadership and good engagement that will ensure the ongoing quality and accessibility of patient services, as well as helping to improve the DHBs’ financial performance. As the Minister should know, what makes good clinical sense also makes good financial sense.

The full ASMS media release, which includes a link to the letter of expectations, is on our website at

Public health services in crisis require urgent fix from Government

ASMS is calling on the Government to fix the crisis with patient care at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital urgently to ensure the struggling services there do not break down further as we head into what could be a disastrous winter. The hospital’s heads of departments drew a number of serious concerns about over-stretched services to the Health Minister’s attention in a letter in March (

What’s worse is that we know Middlemore is not the only hospital stretched beyond its ability to cope. While the Health Minister is not responsible for the mess his government has inherited, he is responsible for repairing the health system, and he needs to take immediate action.

The full ASMS media release is at

ACC plans to cut medical advisory staffing

ASMS has been very concerned to learn of proposed changes at ACC which would see the number of medical advisors reduce by almost 20%. Staff in ACC’s clinical services directorate have been given information about the planned changes, and are dismayed by the potential implications if this goes ahead. There was no prior engagement between ACC and the medical advisors represented by ASMS before the announcement was made.

We will be helping members to get the proposal withdrawn, which would see some of ACC’s longest serving advisory employees losing their jobs and represent a significant loss of knowledge and experience from the organisation.

The full ASMS media release is available at

True cost of failed Waikato health app

A review of the failed Waikato DHB health app SmartHealth, driven by the DHB’s disgraced former chief executive Nigel Murray, has found it cost taxpayers $25.7 million (

The damning report criticises the lack of transparency, direction and implementation involved with the app’s rollout. Waikato DHB announced last month that it was pulling the plug on the app (, and the review report just out shows just how big a bungle the app has been.

In our view, what the report describes as failures are in fact a complete failure to do the basics of competent leadership. This stands as yet another disastrous legacy of the Nigel Murray appointment during his time at the DHB. Hopefully some important lessons have been learnt about the need for clinical engagement when new services are designed, approved and implemented, as well as transparency around the processes used when making these decisions.

Vulnerable Children’s Act compliance deadline

The Vulnerable Children’s Act requires all “core workers” (as defined in the Act) who do, or may, have contact with children through their employment (including those employed in public hospitals) to be safety checked (which includes a police vetting). The legislation requires DHBs to ensure this happens by 1 July 2018 for core workers, and for non-core workers by 1 July 2019.

Did you know…about flu vaccinations?

The 2018 influenza vaccination is now available in New Zealand. Getting vaccinated against influenza this winter protects us individually but also reduces the penetration of the disease within our communities. Your DHB wants you to stay well and able to work, ASMS just wants you to stay well. As the DHBs gear up to start the vaccination process, we suggest all members take the opportunity to get the jab. Contact your vaccinating team to arrange your free vaccination now.

Kind regards,

Ian Powell