Membership  Letter from the President – November 2018

Dear NZSA Member

NZSA membership continues to grow steadily. In part we can attribute this to our increasing engagement with the specialty, particularly through our sub-specialty networks and hospital department visits. Our Executive Committee are also actively speaking to colleagues about the value of being a member and the distinct role of the NZSA as an independent, strong voice for New Zealand anaesthesia. We have strong communication platforms to convey our work to members, such as our electronic and hard copy publications, and our growing presence on social media.

The NZSA has a strong collective voice advocating for the profession which includes responding to proposed policies, legislation and standards from government and the health sector. Our submissions are diverse, reflecting the breadth of our specialty, and in 2018 included environmental sustainability, the End of Life Choice Bill, professional self-regulation, and recertification for vocationally registered doctors.

We meet regularly with stakeholders to help influence and shape policy, including meetings with the Health Minister and other health politicians. We have a strong partnership with ANZCA NZNC, and others such as the NZMA and ASMS.

The NZSA is also a strong advocate for anaesthetists working in the private sector. Our Private Practice Sub-Committee meets regularly with ACC and the NZ Private Surgical Hospitals Association, and we provide updates to members on issues relevant to private practice.

Maintaining a strong anaesthesia community is at the centre of our work, which is strongly manifested in our paediatric, obstetrics and airway networks. These are now well established with representatives from throughout the country and provide collegial and professional support for members, especially those working in smaller, more isolated centres. We are now looking to extend the network concept to other fields such as perioperative care and private practice.

Supporting the welfare and wellbeing of anaesthetists is a major focus. While this is a challenging area, there is a collective commitment in our specialty to raise awareness, to de-stigmatise the conversation around mental ill-health and to provide resources to assist our colleagues. Fortunately, there is growing evidence of what we can do to reduce mental ill health and suicide, and foster wellness. We have been very supportive of our Welfare Special Interest Group and Executive Committee member Kaye Ottaway was our 2018 NZSA representative. The SIG has recently launched The Long Lives, Health Workplace Toolkit, a comprehensive, inclusive package to improve wellbeing which has been designed for anaesthesiology departments. We are hoping to introduce this to NZ departments.

We are also exploring a “Buddy system” for colleagues undergoing the medico-legal process as we know doctors going through this are particularly at risk of mental ill health.

Some other areas that fall under community:

  • The Common Issues Group (CIG): The CIG comprises six English speaking anaesthesia societies. This is a very integral part of our global connections. At this year’s meeting in London we discussed welfare, fatigue, drug shortages, workforce and increased collaboration amongst our member societies, including more information sharing.
  • Hospital Visits: An important avenue for communication between members and executive. Our aim is to visit each hospital once every two years and we have made excellent progress this year. These visits are key to engaging with members and keeping the Society informed on issues at a national and regional level.
  • New Zealand Anaesthetic Technicians’ Society (NZATS): The NZSA has a strong working partnership with NZATS. This has been a difficult year for NZATS as they have navigated their profession’s scope of practice review, and potential changes in training pathways. These issues remain unresolved at present. We encourage members to support our technician colleagues where possible. The introduction of yet another anaesthetic assistant training pathway, offered by Southern Cross Hospitals for nurse assistants, has added further complexity. We also have serious shortages of Assistants to the Anaesthetist in some regions and further shortfalls have been predicted if we do not train more. We encourage members to assist in training assistants to the anaesthetist and to support both technicians and nurses to help maintain appropriate and comparable standards of training. Without our support the provision of adequate anaesthetic services will be severely compromised.
  • NZSA Overseas Aid Sub-Committee (OASC): OASC supports our Pacific colleagues and has a close relationship with the Pacific Society of Anaesthetists (PSA). We had a strong presence at the PSA’s Annual Refresher Course held in Fiji in September, which included providing some of the training. The NZSA also provides financial support for locums from Australia and New Zealand to work in the Pacific to enable Pacific anaesthetists to attend CME meetings, such as the PSA Refresher Course. Since last year we have also offered free NZSA Associate Membership for our Pacific colleagues and are delighted so many have taken up this offer. Thank you to Alan Goodey who served for many years as the Chair of the OASC and who resigned from this position recently. The new Chair is former NZSA President Ted Hughes.

The NZSA supports and facilitates educational opportunities including AQUA, Part 0, Part 3, the Annual Registrars’ Meeting and the ASMs. We also provide education prizes and had an excellent number of applications this year for the Ritchie Prize, Trainee Prize, and Poster Prize at the ASM.

Our Education Officer Dr Kerry Holmes is also the Chair of the NZ Anaesthesia Education Committee, which organises the annual visiting lectureships and oversees the BWT Ritchie Scholarship.

Education highlights from this year included the NZSA Annual Forum held in Christchurch, which focused on welfare, and the NZ Anaesthesia Annual Scientific Meeting organised with ANZCA NZNC, held in Auckland.

I would also like to highlight this year’s engagement with the Health and Disability Commission. While the anaesthesia specialty only comprises 1% of complaints annually, there were several HDC reports in recent times relating to anaesthesia, including a case which caused concern for some of our members.  Our discussions with the Commissioner explored topics such as disclosure, transparency and effective communication with colleagues and patients to improve care and reduce complaints. The Commissioner presented at this year’s joint NZSA-NZNC meeting and at our annual forum. These talks helped to increase understanding of the main reasons for patients making complaints, and the complaints process. We will continue to explore how we can support individuals who undergo a complaint, which can be a very stressful experience and lead to significant welfare issues.

Ngā mihi

Kathryn Hagen