Junior doctors still working epic shifts

Eighteen months on from their last strike, junior doctors are still having to work long shifts without breaks.

On Thursday the NZ Resident Doctors' Association (NZRDA) will meet to discuss the mental wellbeing of its members, who work up to 16-hour shifts, sometimes 12 days in a row.

"There are a number of rosters in New Zealand still running that pattern," NZRDA vice-president Kathryn Foster told The AM Show.

"It is intense. We don't get a lot of breaks. We don't necessarily rest."

She says the extreme demands, the result of being around 300 doctors short nationwide, is taking its toll.

"We really need to put an emphasis on the health of the people who care for the people of New Zealand. Without a focus on caring for us, we can't care for others."

Junior doctors went on strike in October 2016 and again in early 2017, citing much the same reasons - and little has changed. Dr Foster says they're still sacrificing huge parts of their lives, just to be able to do their job effectively.

"To make sure we're rested, ready for work and able to do the job to the best of our ability, things like socialising go out the window. We lose time with family and friends. We lose items for sleep. We just focus on the work and getting through it."

Kathryn Foster.
Kathryn Foster. Photo credit: NZRDA

She said while many DHBs are working towards 10-day rosters, there are still "four or five" running 12-day rotations, despite an agreement between the NZRDA and DHBs last year to make 10 days the maximum.

Six DHBs commissioned a recent report which found the 10-day rosters were increasing the number of handovers between doctors, potentially increasing risk for patients, RNZ reported in September.