The College understands there has been a fall of approximately 25-30 per cent in planned care operations, also known as elective surgery, and predicts this trend will continue without urgent interventions.

RACS’ Aotearoa New Zealand National Committee (AoNZNC) applauds incoming Health Minister Ayesha Verrall for committing to getting waiting lists down.

In interviews earlier this week, Minister Verrall said she would be asking the Planned Care Taskforce for a progress update on the 101 recommendations it released last year.

However, AoNZNC Chair Associate Professor Andrew MacCormick points out the Taskforce recommendations are predicated on having sufficient workforce and infrastructure to provide service.

“There is a workforce crisis and infrastructure is sorely lacking. Without action on these issues, there can be no meaningful progress on cutting waitlists.

“The National Committee reiterates our plea for both long- and short-term approaches to dealing with these issues.

“We have been talking about this with the government, and in the media, for some time now. The situation is serious. We are hearing of surgeons struggling to operate on their cancer patients after their surgical lists have been cancelled.”

Associate Professor MacCormick explains surgeons rely on a number of highly skilled specialists to ensure patient safety. When there are gaps in the team, that means cancellations and delays for patients.

The AoNZNC has concerns about workforce shortages right across the healthcare sector, from doctors and nurses, to radiographers and anaesthetic technicians.

At the same time, Aotearoa New Zealand hospitals have been found to have serious infrastructure issues right across the motu and a lack of operating theatres.

“Not only do we not have the people to keep up with demand for planned care operations,” says Associate Professor MacCormick, “we also lack the environment to provide the standard of care our communities deserve.

“Our door is open and we are ready to work with Te Whatu Ora and the Workforce Taskforce to start finding solutions to these problems.”

Read previous statements from the AoNZNC on the need for action on workforce shortages:

Surgeons call for immediate action on workforce shortages amid growing waitlists

Surgeons urge for long-term plan to fix workforce crisis