NZ doctors chase lucrative contracts across Tasman

By Edward Gay

More than 28 New Zealand doctors have chased a pay-rise of up to 50 per cent to fill posts at hospitals in Queensland on temporary contracts this year.

The positions have been in specialty areas that New Zealand is short on, including obstetrics and gynaecology as well as emergency department.

The contracts range between a week and two months, according to figures released by the Queensland health authority, Queensland Health.

The numbers of doctors heading to Queensland comes as no surprise to the president of the union who represents experienced doctors in New Zealand.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists president Ian Powell said the terms and conditions in Queensland were attractive to New Zealand doctors but the offers could be acting as a stop valve for doctors who otherwise may have moved overseas long-term.

"It's very hard to say what the impact would be. If you had 28 from the same DHB, even Auckland as the biggest DHB, that would start to have an impact, but spread through-out the land..."

He said doctors were taking short-term contracts across the Tasman on unpaid leave, on weekends and even on annual leave.

"People who make decisions on a daily basis on who lives and who dies, who is cured or not, they need time out from a routine of pressure. It would be a concern if they used annual leave for that purpose," Mr Powell said.

He said New Zealand suffered shortages, particularly in gynaecology.

"We are now in an Australian medical labour market and that's the reality of it. The leaders of the health system need to wake up to that," Mr Powell said.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Mason Stevenson said New Zealand doctors were desirable because of the high standard of training in New Zealand.

"It is somewhat ironic that despite your medical workforce shortages, New Zealand doctors are still attracted to come and work in Australia, we welcome them with open arms to help us with our medical shortages," Dr Stevenson said.

He said doctors working on short term contracts in Australia can earn up to 50 per cent more than their Australian colleagues to compensate them for travelling.

He said Queensland was trying to address the shortages by increasing the numbers of medical graduates from 230 to 680 in five years.

"But that will never stop the desire for doctors to expand their horizons and ply their trade elsewhere and to learn new skills," Dr Stevenson said.

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