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Medical specialists say elective surgery boost promise will lead to even more 'overstretched workforce'

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists says Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman's election promise of boosting elective surgeries per year will only lead to an even more overworked medical sector.

Ian Powell says the increase in number will only lead to more burnout in the medical workforce. Source: Breakfast

Dr Coleman said there are currently about 174,000 elective surgeries performed across the country per year, but additional funding of $30 million per year over the next four years would increase that to 200,000.

Ian Powell, speaking this morning to TVNZ1's Breakfast, said about half of New Zealand's specialist medical staff are already burnt out from high work load in operating theatres "like a factory", and a boost in the drive for numbers will only make that worse.

"The system copes despite that - but it is not a good state of affairs," Mr Powell said.

Mr Powell said that, in a system which is "all about numbers", it was likely that less-complicated elective surgeries would be prioritised over other necessary operations, leading to "perverse outcomes".

Overall, he said the promise was "additional work for an overstretched workforce" and that New Zealand's priority should be on supporting those specialists, rather than pushing more work through them.

"That's what any incoming government should be focused on."