Call for steps to encourage more Māori and Pasifika anaesthetic technicians

12:15 pm on 30 October 2022
An anaesthetist giving a patient gas in a hospital

Photo: 123RF

An anaesthetic consultant wants more Māori and Pasifika trained to help with the number of cancelled and delayed surgeries.

More than 50 percent of anaesthetic technicians in Aotearoa are currently from overseas, with an estimated nationwide workforce of up to 1000 people.

Meanwhile, Māori and Pasifika make up under 5 percent of technicians.

North Shore Hospital specialist anaesthetist Ted Hughes said there needs to be more focus and support for local recruitment during training for anaesthetic technicians.

"They get a degree, which is great, but not everybody is going to be able to do that training, so I'm quite keen to get support for them - which might include working in the hospital as an orderly or theatre assistant during their training, and also having some financial help with the training," Hughes said.

The shortage of technicians was also taking a toll on those currently in the workforce.

"On occasions in the last six to 12 months, I have had more than one technician in tears telling me that they're having to work extra shifts on weekends and nights because they can't find enough technicians. And some of these people are Pacific and Māori" said Hughes.

His group, Pasifika Anaesthetists in Aotearoa, want the government to help provide financial assistance for Māori and Pasifika while they are training.

"Previously technicians were paid when they were studying anaesthetic technology, which meant that financially it was quite viable to do the course easily, but now we are asking people to do a four-year course that's totally self-funded," he said.

Employing more Māori and Pasifika technicians and increasing trainee numbers would help build an equitable system that better represents the population.

"When someone is very frightened and very anxious and in pain and suffering, having a person from a similar background can make a huge difference to how comfortable you are with the whole process. I think Pasifika and Māori bring something different to the table," Hughes said.

New Zealand Society of Anaesthetists president Dr Morgan Edwards said shortages were impacting patients.

"Every day in every hospital across New Zealand patients are having their surgery cancelled due to the lack of an anaesthetic technician," Edwards said.

"NZSA supports any strategy to improve this critical workforce both in numbers and diversity to better reflect the society they are caring for."

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