Junior doctors strike for 48 hours to protest new contracts

Junior doctors strike for 48 hours to protest new contracts
Photo credit: Getty

Doctors across the country will be spread thin over the next couple of days as more than 3300 junior doctors go on strike.

The striking action began at 7am on Tuesday morning.

New Zealand Resident Doctors' Association (RDA) president Dr Courtney Brown explains the reasons behind the strike, saying that doctors are striving to keep their current contracts.

"The current contracts allow us to have a say in where we work, and if the District Health Board (DHB) change it then we can be sent anywhere, to any DHB, without a say."

Dr Brown says being sent to wherever the DHB decides is not the only issue with the proposed new contract.

"They will be able to roster us for 16-hour days, and over 10 days in a row. At the start of 2017, the DHB issued a contract saying we can only work 10 days in a row, and now they're trying to push it up to 12 days in a row."

According to Dr Brown, this has not sat well with the majority of the medical community.

"The overwhelming feedback is that the majority of resident doctors are striking."

She estimates the number of striking doctors to be "upwards of 3,300".

Pay is another reason that doctors are striking, with doctors and their DHBs in conflict over pay talks, according to RNZ.

The number of striking doctors will have an effect on patients, but Dr Brown says the only procedures that will suffer will be elective or clinical procedures.

"All emergency and life and limb procedures will still go ahead."

She says the strike is a last resort.

"We've been put in a position where, to keep ourselves and our patients safe, this is our only option."

DHB spokesperson Dr Peter Bramley says the number of procedures cancelled will vary by DHB, but that they will be significant.

"Our priority is to provide emergency and acute care to patients, so we're cancelling as few procedures as possible. But our first priority is emergency care."

Anyone concerned about their health should call their GP in the first instance to help ease the pressure [on hospitals], Dr Bramley says.

"But the public should be reassured that our first priority is care - people will be available to provide emergency care."

Patients waiting for planned surgery will likely be the most inconvenienced.

"Planned procedures are the things that can wait a few more days."

Dr Bramley hopes a resolution is on the cards between doctors and DHBs.

"We've already reached an agreement with Speciality Trainees of NZ which resolves rostering issues, and less handovers. "We're hoping we can reach another agreement [with the RDA] before the next strike."

The next strike is planned for January 28, and will last another 48 hours.