More than 5500 operations, appointments bumped by strike video

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/STUFF.CO.NZ

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

At least 5500 people have had elective surgery and appointments rescheduled as a result of the junior doctors' strike.

Most district health boards (DHBs) have reported the number of operations and outpatient appointments that have been rebooked.

Excluding figures from Northland, Taranaki, and West Coast DHBs and surgery-only numbers from Bay of Plenty, Lakes District and South Canterbury DHBs, the national number of people affected is about 5517.

Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman says industrial unrest is not unusual in the health sector but wants the DHBs and ...
MARION VAN DIJK/ FAIRFAX NZ

Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman says industrial unrest is not unusual in the health sector but wants the DHBs and the striking junior doctors to "get back to the negotiating table".

Waikato, Mid-Central, Waitemata each postponed more than 600 operations and appointments.

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Canterbury, Auckland, Counties Manukau and Southern DHBs were forced to rebook more than 500.

Junior doctors strike at Christchurch Hospital on Tuesday. DHBs are bracing for a second day without thousands of junior ...
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Junior doctors strike at Christchurch Hospital on Tuesday. DHBs are bracing for a second day without thousands of junior doctors.

Lakes District DHB could not provide figures but a spokeswoman said "quite a number" of appointments were rebooked in surgery, orthopaedic, ear nose and throat, medical, paediatrics, gynaecology and specialist antenatal departments. 

The two-day strike by New Zealand Resident Doctors Association (NZRDA) members is due to finish at 7am on Thursday, and DHBs are reporting contingency plans have gone well so far, with no major issues.

Senior doctors, nurses and a reduced number of junior doctors have filled gaps as a result of the strike. 

RNZ Morning Report

A junior doctor who did not strike says proposed changes to the doctors' roster could interfere with their medical training, and don't address all of the reasons why her colleagues are dangerously tired.

The exact number of striking NZRDA members remains unclear, but soem DHBs have reported staffing and union membership. Union membership varies among New Zealand's 20 DHBs.

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Auckland DHB employs 537 resident medical officers (RMOs) – known as junior doctors –  and 316 (59 per cent ) are NZRDA union members. 

Northland DHB employs 102 RMOs and, of these, 79 are NZRDA members. In Canterbury, of the 397 junior doctors who would usually work on Monday, 252 joined the strike and 145 went to work.

DAY ONE GOES SMOOTHLY, DHBS REPORT

Health services were still running "like clockwork" during the 48-hour strike, officials said.

A spokesman for DHB shared services said all DHBs had managed the strike well and none had reported any "issues".

Emergency departments stayed open but the public was urged to contact their GP first for non-emergencies while up to 3000 junior doctors struck. 

NZRDA national secretary Deborah Powell said she did not know how many members nationally had decided to work during the strike.

"We don't collect that sort of information and we are not even seeking it."

About 120 union members volunteered to work under the life preserving services (LPS) agreement that ensured DHBs could continue to provide critical services during industrial action, Powell said.

COLEMAN CONFIDENT DISPUTE CAN BE RESOLVED

On Tuesday, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said he was confident the dispute could be resolved.

"I think it can but it's a negotiation. Obviously we're in the strike at the moment we have just got to get through that period and get both parties back to the negotiating table to work through the issues."

Asked if he was concerned about further strike action by other health workers, Coleman said industrial action was not unusual in the sector.

"There are quite a number of complex negotiations each year and usually industrial action is averted but we've just got to get through the strike and the main thing is the life preserving services agreement has been maintained."

On Monday, St John ambulance was given a 14-day notice of strike action beginning on November 3. 

The senior doctors' union has adjourned negotiations over its contract until next month, but is unhappy with the most recent offer made by DHBs.

Coleman said this was not surprising due to the complex nature of pay negotiations in the health sector. 

"There's always noise around these industrial settlements. The main thing is to get the parties to the table to work out the issues."

Labour health spokeswoman Annette King said the strike was a result of underfunding to DHBs. 

"They are being swamped by growing cuts, Coleman's so called efficiencies, that are preventing any sort of meaningful solutions to the under staffing of our hospitals."

King said the Government had underfunded the health system by $1.7 billion over the past six years. 

 - Stuff

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