Wages and conditions of Clinical Coders in New Zealand: a report of surveys conducted in 1998 and 2004

Douglas, J.
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Working Paper
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AUT Faculty of Business

This report reports on surveys on the wages and conditions of Clinical Coders in New Zealand’s public health sector undertaken in 1998 and 2004. Human Resource Managers in Crown Health Enterprises in 1998 and District Health Boards in 2004 were asked to provide information relating to the wages and conditions of the Clinical Coders they employed. There was a 100% participation rate from the 23 Crown Health Enterprises in 1998 and an 86% participation rate by District Health Boards in 2004. General information relating to coding practice and coding education was sought from the Public Service Association, Ministry of Health, New Zealand Health Information Service, and the Faculty of Health at the Auckland University of Technology. The 2004 survey showed growth in the number of Clinical Coders employed across the sector. There could have been falls within the six year period but surveys were not conducted to measure this. Overall there was a small movement in wages between 1998 and 2004. The average starting salary increased by 4.9% to $29,867 per anum. At the top end of Coders’ salaries, nearly half of the Crown Health Enterprises in 1998 paid within a range of $34,000 to $$36,000. In 2004 eight of the District Health Boards paid Coders between $42,000 and $46,000. This shift in salary rates is an increase of approximately 26%. During the period 1998 to 2004 there has been a change in legislation from the Employment Contracts Act 1991 to the Employment Relations Act 2000. The 2004 survey has shown an inconsistency with the goal of the ERA for increased collective employment arrangements. In 2004 more District Health Boards were utilising a mixture of collective and individual agreements whereas in 1998 the majority of Crown Health Enterprises employed Coders under collective contracts only. Overall, the surveys revealed that Clinical Coders have had some gains at the enterprise level of wage increases as to be expected, although these did not appear to be in line with inflation. Despite the apparent keenness by this occupational group for improved standardisation of wages, conditions and training, (in part the impetus for this research), there has been no evidence that any such substantial improvements have occurred over the six years.

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