Hospital copes while 250 doctors strike in Canterbury video

CHECKPOINT/Radio New Zealand

Junior Doctors walked off wards in hospitals around the country today in a 48-hour strike over rosters. Our Health Correspondent Karen Brown reports.

Contingency plans worked well on the first day of the junior doctors' 48 hour strike, despite the absence of 254 striking union members, Canterbury District Health Board says. 

Of 397 junior doctors who would usually have come to work, 252 joined the strike and 145 came to work, general manager of people and capability Michael Frampton said. 

"We've been able to cover the gaps in rosters thanks to senior medical officers, nurses, allied health and resident medical officers that chose to work stepping in and because the DHB has worked hard to clinically assess all demand across our services to ensure we continue to provide safe care during the union's strike," he says.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/STUFF.CO.NZ

Members of the New Zealand Resident Doctors' Association picket outside Christchurch Hospital.

The strike had forced the DHB to re-schedule 181 elective surgeries and procedures, and 444 outpatient appointments.

"This represents significant disruption for the people of Canterbury," Frampton said. 

After-hours surgeries in Christchurch reported no increase in patient numbers as a result of the resident doctors' strike.

Junior doctors protest at Christchurch Hospital during strike action.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Junior doctors protest at Christchurch Hospital during strike action.

Pegasus Health 24 Hour Surgery operations manager Claire McQuilken said patient numbers so far were no different to any other Tuesday.

"It's looking stable and we are having low patient presentations at the moment."

McQuilken said the impact on the surgery was "reasonably unknown and unpredictable" and more staff were available.

Jonathan Davis, 33, a Christchurch New Zealand Resident Doctors' Association delegate, at a protest outside Christchurch ...
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Jonathan Davis, 33, a Christchurch New Zealand Resident Doctors' Association delegate, at a protest outside Christchurch Hospital on day one of the strike.

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"Given that we are an urgent care facility, as defined by the patient . . . I have a little bit of extra capacity on during today and I also have some on call capacity that we will draw on if we need it."

Campaigns by the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) encouraging people to seek help at their GP for non-urgent care may well be getting cut through and people may well be ringing their GP first, she said. 

Protesting doctors outside Christchurch Hospital received a chorus of toots from passing vehicles
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Protesting doctors outside Christchurch Hospital received a chorus of toots from passing vehicles

Riccarton Clinic and After-Hours Medical Centre manager Mark Darvill said staff had not noticed any increase in patient numbers.

No specific measures were in place for the strike but there were always extra resources the clinic could draw on if needed, he said.

Darvill said Canterbury's health system was highly integrated and efficient already and the strike would be managed quite easily.

"The disruption of a doctors' strike is nothing compared to the disruption of several thousand after-shocks and earthquakes so, we can handle it."

Striking resident doctors make their voice heard

A group of 40 to 50 striking resident doctors gathered outside Christchurch Hospital to protest unsafe working hours as their 48-hour strike began.

With signs detailing their qualms, the group received a chorus of toots from passing vehicles, even garnering support from two police vehicles.

At least five children and four dogs were also in the group, hoping to see more of their doctor parents.

New Zealand Resident Doctors' Association delegate Jonathan Davis said they were "drawing a line in the sand".

"We are not willing to wait two or three years for this to happen," he said.

"We can all recall positions we've been put in where we know we are too tired to think properly, we know we are struggling."

Davis, 33, said the strike's effect on patient care at the hospital would be minimal, with sufficient consultants employed for the duration.

"I was on night shift last night, the consultants came in early at 6.30am, and I met 10 of them at the handover.

"If patients are sick, they need to come. The consultants are on the front line, and [patients] are going to get good, excellent care."

Despite his tiredness, Davis said showing solidarity among junior doctors was important.

"Yes, I am tired. But it is important that we get out and are here in numbers, and it's important that we're here together."

He said the majority of around 600 resident doctors in Christchurch were off work for the strike.

"I have not had one member say they are going to work."

 - Stuff

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