Syphilis deaths highlight need for proper health sector resourcing

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16 July 2018

Media Release - ASMS

The heart-wrenching news that babies have died from syphilis underscores yet again the importance of properly funding and resourcing essential health services,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

“This should not be happening in a quality first-world public health care system like New Zealand’s.”

He was commenting on reports that babies are dying from syphilis passed on from their mothers during pregnancy (https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12086283). He particularly noted comments by Dr Jane Morgan, clinical director of Waikato DHB’s Hamilton Sexual Health and an honorary academic at the University of Auckland, that the situation indicated New Zealand’s health care systems were falling over.

“The reality is that our public health system has been neglected for years, and has soldiered on despite significant under-funding and longstanding workforce shortages. You can’t have that kind of entrenched neglect of essential health services without consequences.”

Mr Powell noted cuts to the Auckland regional sexual health service (run by Auckland District Health Board), which had reduced the number of sexual health senior doctors by 1.65 full time equivalent (FTE). The service now has 2.1 permanent FTE sexual health specialists covering three DHBs (Auckland, Waitemata and Counties Manukau). Sexual health specialists warned their health bosses that these cuts would place further strain on the service’s ability to cope but were marginalised.

“The Government needs to ensure services have the staff they need to provide the level of health care New Zealanders require,” he says. “We don’t want more tragedies to occur before someone decides to act.”

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