The election campaign period is in full swing, and health is one of the big issues parties are focusing on. And all this is happening as we engage in our negotiations with Te Whatu Ora. We’ve already started to make it clear to MPs and voters that RMO pay is a big issue this year with a great story in Newsroom prior to our first negotiation pre-meeting and a recent op-ed in NZ Doctor from Christina that outlines the issue women in medicine face - including pay.
We know that there are many other structural fixes that have to happen though, and we started work on this as part of the workforce taskforce and now directly with Te Whatu Ora. One thing we know which has also been identified in the recent Workforce Action Plan, is the need to train and retain more doctors which is why we’re welcoming the recent Labour policy to significantly increase the number of places available in med school by up to 60%.
However, like everything in health policy, it comes with provisos.
There is a common perspective that becoming a doctor is a linear process. A medical graduate attends medical school, secures a job as a training doctor, does years of being a training doctor and then becomes a consultant. The public perception is then those specialists, including GPs earn lots of money and retire. We argue that this is not true.
The current reality and future projections demonstrate a complex, political, restrictive, and layered training progression. While the system fixes usually called for is more medical students (as we are seeing in this Political campaign), trainees, or funding; we believe that this alone will not fix the pipeline challenges.
More student places will only really benefit the system if the next steps in the workforce pipeline including RMO training and retention are also sorted. However, we won’t complete the health jigsaw if we don’t get the first piece in place. And the STONZ team are constantly pushing to get the other pieces identified and locked in. STONZ supports the principle that to develop a sustainable workforce for the future we need to focus on growing, training, and retaining our own; with a future workforce that better reflects the population of Aotearoa we serve.
Over the last 18 months we have built good relationships with Health Ministers Little and Verrall and established our credentials as a frontline organisation that works in good faith to get change. We’ve no doubt that whatever the results of the next election, our influence on the direction of our health system will continue to grow.
That influence comes because of the work our members, and all RMOs, play in keeping our hospital doors open. Although it’s early in the negotiations it is clear that Te Whatu Ora and the government are aware of how much they need you and we have let them know that they now need to recognise your huge contribution to the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.