Doctors protesting for more pay a 'moral failure', former Health NZ boss Rob Campbell says

The former head of Te Whatu Ora says Labour's latest health policy is proof the doctor's strikes are working.  

But Rob Campbell said the fact doctors are still protesting for better pay is appalling.  

"This is a moral failure of our society to be honest. This should not be happening," he told Newshub. 

He said Labour's proposal to train hundreds more doctors is a policy that's the direct result of industrial action.  

"That's not an accident, it's because people like the nurses and senior doctors are taking action." 

On Wednesday, 5500 senior doctors and 100 dentists from the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists were back on the picket line for just the second time in history after pay talks with Te Whatu Ora failed last week.

Executive director Sarah Dalton said the offer of salary increases of between 7 and 12.9 percent over 17 months is not acceptable.  
"It's not good enough," she said. "We are losing doctors every week to Australia." 

The doctors are calling for better pay and working conditions to stop the hemorrhaging of health workers to higher paying countries like Australia.  One doctor told Newshub it's hard to compete when New Zealand salaries are so far behind. 

"Our highest salary level here is the starting salary level in Australia," she said.  

The sector is short of more than 2000 doctors, which workers have said is putting immense and unsustainable pressure on hospitals. 

"There are services which are failing all over the place," one doctor said.  

Patient safety is suffering because doctors are so burnt out, health professionals have warned. 

"They're not going to give you safe care - they'll try their best but we are only human, we're not robots," said a gynecologist from Auckland City Hospital.  

Te Whatu Ora wasn't available for an interview on Wednesday but said in a statement emergency departments remained open during the strikes and care was maintained for patients. 

"A smaller number of procedures were deferred compared to last week, as bookings weren’t made once notice of the strike was received," said a spokesperson. 

Health NZ said it's committed to reaching a settlement with the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists. 

"We share senior doctors’ concerns about attracting and retaining doctors into the public health system. Growing our medical workforce will take time but we have a comprehensive plan to address these issues," the spokesperson said.  

The union and Te Whatu Ora will meet for pay talks on Tuesday and, if they fail to reach an agreement, then there'll be a four-hour strike next Thursday.

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