RACS’ Aotearoa New Zealand National Committee (AoNZNC) has been making increasingly urgent calls for meaningful dialogue on the causes of growing surgical waitlists, especially for planned (or elective) care, and burnout among healthcare workers.

AoNZNC Chair Associate Professor Andrew MacCormick says workforce shortages and infrastructure issues are “constraining surgeons’ ability to provide the level of care our communities deserve”. He says the College is integral to the government and Te Whatu Ora being able to both understand and solve the problems.

“The issues facing surgical services in Aotearoa are complex, nuanced and differ from region to region and specialty to specialty across the motu. As the peak body for surgery across nine specialties, RACS has a lot to offer in terms of advice and creative ideas on issues including regulation, workforce, surgical training, surgical provision, equity, sustainability and more.”

Associate Professor MacCormick says it has taken time for RACS to get in front of the “right people”, something he says is especially critical in the current era of COVID-19 and ongoing health reforms.

“We are grateful the government has recognised the value of our experience, knowledge and ideas,” he says.

Since March, RACS has met with the Health Minister, Hon Dr Ayesha Verrall; ManatÅ« Hauora – Ministry of Health senior officials, including Chief Medical Officer Dr Joe Bourne; and Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand leadership. 

Discussions ranged from finding ways to train more surgeons to solving issues of equity and access for planned care and tackling shortages in anaesthetic technicians.

Associate Professor MacCormick says the College is heartened by government’s willingness to accept RACS’ advice on these issues and “work with us to make real, positive change”.

“Importantly, the door is now open for us to continue these conversations, check in on progress, raise further issues and call the government to account. Through formal, quarterly check ins with ManatÅ« Hauora and Te Whatu Ora, RACS will be part of the solution, working with government as we progress through the current challenges and prepare for future ones.”


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