Hundreds of surgeries cancelled as senior doctors strike for better pay

Hundreds of patients had their surgeries cancelled or postponed on Tuesday as thousands of senior doctors took to the streets calling for better pay.

The doctors union wants more money from Te Whatu Ora and this is the first time they've gone on strike to demand it.

Armed with placards and dressed in scrubs, our senior doctors walked away from patients and out to the picket line.

It's something they've never done before.

 "It's not a nice thing to sort of shut down a hospital," one man said.

"We'd rather be inside working," a woman said.

"We're constantly short of staff, people going off sick, operations getting cancelled," a man added.

Support came from cars, rooftops and from the New Zealand Nurses Organisation.

"We all need to speak up and stand in solidarity," one woman said.

For two hours, 5500 doctors from more than 30 public hospitals joined 100 dentists to protest.

They're feeling overworked and underpaid.

"Bit by bit our health system is deteriorating and we're watching it happen," another woman said.

"People have just had enough and this pay thing is the last straw," a man said.

They're reluctantly taking industrial action, resulting in 250 operations being postponed or cancelled.

"I've had to postpone the colonoscopy list that I'm doing this afternoon and that's been shortened," Wellington Hospital's general surgeon Alex Dalzel said.

The pay offer from Te Whatu Ora is for salary increases between 7 and 12.9 percent over 17 months, however, the union has rejected it.

"Our system is really struggling and we can't even get a pay adjustment that maintains the value of their wages," executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Sarah Dalton said.

"We've been clear with the union that what's on the table is the best we can do, to invest more would require re-prioritisation," Te Whatu Ora's Andrew Slater admitted.

Not all senior doctors could go on strike today, some had to remain in hospital to provide life-preserving services, and many of those out here are actually on call.

"Yeah, if something happened I'd be straight back in," Wellington Hospital's oncoplastic breast surgeon Dr Alex Brown said.

And if by chance tomorrow's mediation doesn't go their way, they have two more strikes in the pipeline.