8 Oct 2012

DHB supported over US recruitment drive

8:27 pm on 8 October 2012

The Waikato District Health Board has gained the backing of the Government's health workforce planning agency for a recruitment drive.

Three of the board's emergency department staff are in the American state of Colorado trying to recruit senior emergency doctors for Waikato Hospital.

The DHB says it needs to recruit overseas for four more emergency department specialists, which is not expensive, while it trains more doctors of its own.

The Health Workforce New Zealand group says there is a global shortage of emergency specialists and the DHB is being progressive while other initiatives, including boosted after-hours care in the community, are pursued.

The DHB says recruiting doctors from overseas makes sense. Assistant group manager Kevin Harris says it is costing only about $10,000, which is less than a recruitment agency would charge.

"My understanding is that other DHBs are also looking for emergency physicians, so there is competition out there. People tend to stay in the area that they trained as well, so other DHBs will also be training emergency physicians, but they will tend to keep them."

Mr Harris says the DHB wants to expand its senior emergency department staff from 11 to 15 fulltime employees to help provide round-the-clock care.

The senior doctors' union, however, says overseas recruitment is a waste of money, when what is really needed is initiatives to help retain doctors.

Ian Powell, executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, says he is not criticising the DHB - but it highlights the financial waste that comes with shortages.

"Because unlike many other services or businesses, patients don't go away - they still have to be treated. And when you have shortages, you have to go to the most expensive option possible. Shortages don't save money, they cost money - big money."