President's annual report


'Advocacy, community and education are our key areas of work as we strive to strongly represent and support you, and to promote the perioperative safety of your patients.'

Ngā mihi nui kia koutou katoa,

I would like to begin by acknowledging and commending all those working on the front lines, especially our Auckland colleagues. It has also been encouraging to see many of our members promoting the importance of vaccination as our best means of protection against COVID, via media and social media.

The NZSA has progressed its work across advocacy, community, and education despite COVID disruptions. We were excited to host the Aoteaoroa New Zealand Anaesthesia ASM in late October. While we had to nimbly shift to a fully virtual conference, we were able to offer many  engagement opportunities to make this an interactive and collegial experience. The scientific program was diverse and thought-provoking, covering topics such as big data, perioperative care, equity, wellbeing and environmental sustainability.

The NZSA is continuing to see steady membership growth – especially due to our networks which connect anaesthetists throughout the country, and the Executive’s regular hospital department visits. We have been warmly welcomed by anaesthesia departments at North Shore, Tauranga, Palmerston North, Blenheim, Wellington, Dunedin, Timaru, and Whanganui so far this year and are hoping to visit a few more hospitals by year’s end.  Our Executive Committee regularly speak to colleagues about the value of being a member and the need for the Society to have high membership to optimise our influence as the independent voice on issues unique to New Zealand anaesthesia and our wider health system. These conversations have impact. We are also always thinking of how to engage more with members to best represent you – in 2021 we began to undertake more member surveys to better inform and guide our work on your behalf. We will continue to survey members more often in 2022.

I would like to thank all members for your support, loyalty, and hard work. So many of you are part of our ‘volunteer’ workforce, generously sharing your time and expertise on our committees and networks. We appreciate every member who is in touch – including feedback on my blog, input into our submissions, or alerting us to issues we need to address.

My report is a summary of NZSA activities so is by no means the full picture. I encourage members to stay in touch with our work through our e-news, magazine, website, events, and social media.

Advocacy
Our advocacy provides the specialty with a strong collective voice, which is evidence-based and considered. We respond to proposed policies, legislation and standards from government and health sector organisations. This year we provided feedback on issues such as the Climate Change Commission’s report, proposals to widen pharmacist prescribing, and the PHARMAC model. We have also been keeping members informed of the immense impending changes to our health system – the health and disability reforms with the interim establishment of Health NZ and the Maori Health Authority to replace the 20 DHBs; and implementation of the End-of-Life Care Act. A member survey we did on EOLC elicited the highest ever response to an NZSA survey, and it was clear that while members have very divergent views on the topic, they expected the NZSA to keep them informed of progress, their rights and responsibilities, and to also have regulatory oversight of EOLC.

We took a strong pro-vaccination position and have been active on social media sharing information about vaccination, aiming to dispel myths,  and to allay fears among the public. We have also supported the stance of our ICU colleagues that high levels of vaccination are essential to reduce pressure on ICU capacity, which is under resourced particularly due to shortages of ICU specialist staff. We welcomed MIQ spots being allocated to specialist health staff from overseas to help bridge shortages. 

Private practice

NZSA is the only organisation in NZ advocating on behalf of anaesthetists working in the private health sector. Our Private Practice Network meets and communicates regularly with ACC and the NZ Private Surgical Hospitals Association, and we provide advice, updates, and resources to members on issues relevant to private practice. This year we released the revised version of our Relative Value Guide and produced an ACC FAQ relating to ACC issues such as clinical contracts. We have expanded our private practice network to keep us apprised of issues and to have input into our advocacy. If you are interested in being part of this network, please get in touch. We would like to have more members in this Network to help us advocate better for those working in private practice. 

Community
Fostering and supporting a strong anaesthesia community is always top of mind for the NZSA. Our subspecialty networks have raised their profile and activities. They are a forum for the dissemination of ideas, protocols, best practice clinical guidelines, and evidence-based medicine – our new IT platform Basecamp made it easier for our networks to communicate. They connect newly qualified and more experienced anaesthetists, and anaesthetists working in more isolated centres with colleagues in the metropolitan hospitals. 

Thank you to all our networks: PANNZ (paediatrics), NOA (obstetrics), airway leads, in patient pain, private practice, and the Environmental and Sustainability Network – the latter has had a big rise this year in its membership. The expertise of the E & S Network has informed the NZSA’s submissions on the environment and shared its expertise in our member magazine with regular articles.

Our Global Health Committee has been supporting our anaesthesia colleagues in the Pacific. The PACT initiative to help fund anaesthesia training has taken off since it was launched at the NZSA conference last year, and funds have been allocated to train a candidate to complete their anaesthesia training at Fiji National University. As we continue to build the PACT fund, we will aim to offer this training to more candidates. The GHC has also been regularly in touch with colleagues in the Pacific, especially in Fiji where COVID rates skyrocketed, and GHC member Dr Wayne Morriss was part of a medical team which went to Fiji to offer support to colleagues working in such difficult circumstances.  Also a special mention to GHC Chair Dr Indu Kapoor for being the recipient of the inaugural NZSA President's Award for her contribution to anaesthesia and NZSA.

We continued to build collegial, enduring connections with our overseas anaesthesia societies – particularly the Common Issues Group (CIG). We have met regularly with the CIG and shared our experiences of COVID, and resources such as webinars, which shared with members. Our connection with the WFSA is as strong as ever and the virtual World Congress was a highlight. We are fortunate to have NZSA GHC member Dr Wayne Morriss as the WFSA President-Elect.

Supporting the wellbeing of anaesthetists is more vital than ever with the pressures of COVID. The NZSA is looking to build its wellbeing resources for members, including webinars. Watch this space!

Education
COVID has seriously limited CME options, however we have worked to offer opportunities in education and CPD. We co-hosted the Visiting Lectureships in a webinar format and had very insightful topics and Q & A. We have promoted webinars on core topics such as EOLC, offered by the Health Ministry, and shared other webinars of interest.

We had our virtual ASM of course with a platform offering many opportunities for interaction including live Q & A, and ability to chat and connect with colleagues. Thank you to our organising committee from Christchurch Hospital for their superlative commitment and work behind the scenes.

Due to restrictions our Part 3 Course for trainees did not go ahead and plans are underway to offer this early in 2022. AQUA also had to be cancelled, and we hope to see you in Queenstown next year!

NZSA projects
This year we welcomed our new CEO Michele Thomas, who has a wealth of health sector experience and the drive, initiative, and enthusiasm to help lead the NZSA to offer greater value to our members. The NZSA is working on some major projects including a more bicultural focus for the Society to demonstrate our commitment to tangata whenua, the Treaty of Waitangi and health equity; expanding our revenue so we can offer more services to members; and an audit of the office to improve our resilience and sustainability – environmental as well as in areas such as our governance. We are also working to expand our resources for patients to help them make informed decisions about their care.

Closing remarks
Safe, high quality patient care is the cornerstone of the NZSA’s work and in the context of the impending health sector reforms and restructure, I truly hope we can deliver a meaningful, enduring change to achieve better health outcomes for those who are not well served by our current health system

Ngā mihi

Sheila Hart