National 22 March 2017
Dear Member,

Welcome to the 3rd 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

Tragic case highlights under-resourcing of public health system

By now you have probably read about the tragic situation of a woman who wasn’t told she had cancer until it was too late (

This event has also raised questions about the short amount of time being allocated for outpatient appointments at Waikato DHB, as reported by the Health & Disability Commissioner. Doctors and other health professionals need sufficient time for patient-centred care, especially when they need to discuss complex health issues with their patients, so we are concerned about any moves to reduce the amount of time available to doctors for these appointments.

The Health & Disability Commissioner also reminded Waikato DHB that the ‘busy-ness’ of doctors was no defence for an error – which, while correct in one sense, creates a real bind for doctors and other who are trying to do more with less in an under-resourced public health system already characterised by high levels of burnout and presenteeism.

ASMS will continue drawing attention to these issues as they are further evidence of a health system under pressure. Our full media release is available at

NZRDA agreement with DHBs prompts health boss to admit strikes work

District health boards have reached agreement with the New Zealand Resident Doctors’ Association after a protracted dispute over safe rostering and related matters - but the DHBs’ lead chief executive on workforce and employment relations, Julie Patterson (Whanganui), appears less than happy with the outcome.

She told Radio New Zealand the DHBs only agreed to the deal to prevent further strikes, a surprising response to the settlement both sides have agreed and, at the same time, an admission that strikes work. Checkpoint’s interview with Julie Patterson can be heard at

Dr Deborah Powell from the NZRDA labelled the comments a case of sour grapes:

Meanwhile, Dr Powell has written to the ASMS to express appreciation for the support from ASMS members during the RMO dispute.

What’s happening to AHPRA?

There are reports the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) appears to be collapsing. The Foodmed website reports that AHPRA is facing mass resignations from its medical boards nationally in the wake of a lifetime ban is placed on orthopaedic surgeon Dr Gary Fettke last year, as well as an ongoing Senate inquiry into the organisation’s secretive medical complaints process.

AHPRA’s three-yearly call for applications to fill vacancies shows unusually large numbers. For example, in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, there were 38 resignations out of 55 positions, according to the Foodmed report.

The full article can be read online at

A reminder about advance care planning

Doctors and other clinicians are being encouraged to discuss advance care planning as a part of a ‘Conversations that Count’ day on Wednesday 5 April.  More information, including resources and details of training for health professionals, is available at

Dr Barry Snow, clinical lead of the National Advance Care Planning Cooperative and Director Adult Medical at Auckland District Health Board, says advance care planning helps people take control of their own health and makes the treatment approach clearer and easier and to follow.

The aim of the ‘Conversations that Count’ Day is to encourage people to talk about and plan for end-of-life care.

Coming up in The Specialist magazine

Your ASMS magazine, The Specialist, will be with you soon. In this issue, we look at international medical migration and New Zealand’s role in the competition for specialists. Elsewhere, ophthalmologists call for an urgent government review of their service, we ponder the technology that – for better or worse – keeps us tethered to the job after hours, reflect on the importance of good medical records, consider ways of jazzing up the JCC meetings with your chief executives, and farewell one of our branch officers who died suddenly and tragically at the end of last year.

Did you know… about part-timers and reimbursement of CME and work-related expenses?

Part-timers are entitled to full (ie, 100%) reimbursement of their work-related expenses (eg, annual practising certificate, college fees, etc), provided the part-timer has no other income from medical or dental practice.

Similarly, part-timers who have no other income from medical or dental practice are entitled to the full reimbursement of up to $16,000 per annum actual and reasonable CME expenses. The entitlement to 10 working days leave for CME is, however, pro rata for part-timers.

More information is available in:

Kind regards,

Ian Powell