The union representing senior salaried doctors says there is growing anxiety about Omicron variant among hospital staff in an already burnt out workforce.

Counties Manukau Health says it has enacted special escalation plans, including cancelling elective surgery, to deal with a surge in patients visiting Middlemore Hospital's emergency department.

Photo: 123RF


NEW ZEALAND— The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists said this time of year is already busy with an influx of patients coming in over the Christmas and New Year break.

Executive Director Sarah Dalton said there are also major concerns among members about an Omicron outbreak, given that patients needs are already not being met, which is being exacerbated by Covid-19.

“Our members are extremely concerned that if Omicron became prevalent in New Zealand what that would mean, not just for people who become sick with Covid, but for people with other conditions who might miss out on care because of the strain on the system,” she said.

Despite this, Dalton said employers have shown little interest in improving working conditions and remuneration for doctors.

“Particularly remuneration and recovery times for people who are working antisocial hours, working over nights and over weekends, which is particularly demanding for emergency doctors and those working in acute settings, where people are very ill and need to be treated immediately.

“That’s really frustrating and causing some anger for our members, she said.

She warned that more health workers will vote with their feet and move overseas once the borders re-open.

“It is very easy for employers and even for the government to say we really value our healthcare workers, but we are not finding the level of engagement around terms and conditions for those people in there doing the work that backs up that gratitude.

“Words just aren’t enough at this time, we need to see some real movement,” she said.

The Associate Health Minister and duty Minister said they were not available for an interview.

The Ministry of Health has been contacted for comment.