Dunedin Hospital says they aren‘t alone in struggle to recruit junior doctors

Dunedin Hospital is gaining a reputation as a poor place to work and is struggling to recruit staff, a union representing junior doctors says.

Dunedin Hospital. Photo: RNZ

Deborah Powell from the Resident Doctors‘ Association said Southern DHB had been slow to recruit for new workers after the safer hours roster was introduced.

The rosters were approved by all DHBs and sought to ensure junior doctors were not overworked.

She said Southern DHB had only just started recruiting for more junior doctors.

“We got an agreement that the doctors would no longer work seven days of nights or 12 days without a break. The Southern DHB has been really slow at implementing these rosters – the rosters are agreed – they just haven‘t implemented them,” said Dr Powell.

More than 3000 people work at Dunedin Hospital. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Southern DHB chief medical officer Nigel Millar said all DHBs were struggling to recruit more staff in the wake of the safer hours roster deal.

“I don‘t believe these challenges are unique to Southern. There is nation-wide competition for excellent staff and it is always a challenge to recruit the best.”

“Additional RMOs are required as a result of changes to their MECA [multi-employer collective agreement], and again it is a nationwide challenge to meet these requirements – DHBs have had varying success and where one succeeds in recruiting it naturally depletes the pool for others,” he said.

Dr Powell disagreed.

“They are trying to blame a national situation, I‘m sorry but that‘s actually just Southern trying to avoid the fact that they‘re not doing well here.”

Accreditation problems

Dr Powell said the lack of accreditation in key specialities was keeping doctors from applying for jobs with the Southern District Health Board (DHB).

“Dunedin Hospital in particular is developing quite a bad reputation amongst resident doctors.

“They‘ve lost quite a number of accreditations over the last few years and while they have been getting them back, for first-year health surgeons and orthopedics for instance, in other instances they haven‘t such as ICU,” she said.

Accreditation is based on factors such as staff competency, integrity of equipment, and compliance.

Dunedin Hospital recently lost its accreditation for radiology and its intensive care unit lost its training accreditation four years ago. It is currently undergoing a rebuild.

“So it‘s a bit of a double whammy, the reputation is one thing but it‘s been exacerbated by the fact that they‘re so slow at responding to such an important issue as safer hours,” said Dr Powell.

Southern DHB spokesperson Patrick Ng said the radiology accreditation had been suspended due to three separate issues which were all being addressed.

“I think it is reasonable to be confident of achieving re-accreditation by June,” he said.