Hospital admin staffing cap must go


The Public Service Association is calling on the government to lift the cap on the number of hospital administrative workers, saying it is putting all hospital staff and services under pressure.

In early 2009, the government asked DHBs to cap the number of their administration staff at 2008 levels.  It claimed the move was necessary to stem the growth of the health bureaucracy and to shift resources from back office to frontline health services.


Administration workers undertake a wide range of essential functions within DHBs including - maintaining medical records, clinical coding, ward clerks, surgical booking clerks, and telephonists. They are often the face of the hospital, dealing directly with and supporting patients.

Earlier this year the PSA conducted a survey of around 1600 of administrative and clinical members across DHBs to ask about how the cap was impacting on their day-to-day work and patient services.

Over half of the clinical or non-admin staff who responded said the time they spend on administrative tasks has increased, with a quarter saying it has increased significantly.

Almost half of administrative staff said that since the cap was introduced they are under more stress, with a third saying their stress has increased significantly.

Importantly, nearly half of all the respondents said the number of administrative errors had risen and the amount of time to update medical records had increased.

“Administrative staff have seen big jumps in their workloads and are struggling to keep up.  Vacancies are not being filled, there is no one to cover for people when they’re on leave and staff are putting in more and more overtime hours,” says PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff.

“Clinicians are also finding themselves doing more administrative work, often aren’t getting the information they need in a timely fashion and some bookings for outpatients or surgical theatres are being left to the last minute resulting in short notice for clinicians and patients.”

“Administrative staff are at the heart of our hospitals.  When they are under pressure and under-resourced it has a big knock-on effect for clinical staff and patient services.”

The PSA is calling on the government to lift the staffing cap and recognise the value of administrative staff and the contribution they make in delivering quality health care to patients.