Stuart Whitaker is the chief reporter of the Te Puke Times and a general reporter for Bay of Plenty Times.

Patients affected by doctor's strike given priority

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Patients whose operations were defererd as a result of the junior doctors' strike will receive priority, said Bay of Plenty DHB medical director Dr Hugh Lees. Photo/File
Patients whose operations were defererd as a result of the junior doctors' strike will receive priority, said Bay of Plenty DHB medical director Dr Hugh Lees. Photo/File

Patients whose operations were deferred as a result of the junior doctors' strike will receive priority.

Junior doctors across the country went back to work yesterday after a 48-hour strike

In Tauranga Hospital, planning for the strike meant 18 operations were deferred.

Bay of Plenty DHB medical director Dr Hugh Lees said the operations would be booked for the earliest date possible and the affected patients would receive priority because of being deferred.

"No extra staffing will be required," said Dr Lees.

He said that on the first day of the strike, attendances at the hospital's emergency department were very similar to normal levels.

"The Ministry of Health's Shorter Stays in Emergency Departments target states that 95 per cent of patients will be admitted, discharged, or transferred from an emergency department within six hours.

Over the first day of the strike a result of 98 per cent was recorded across (Tauranga and Whakatane) sites against this target. Nobody was turned away from the emergency department."

At a national level, ongoing, informal discussions had been held this week and next week could see the start of formal discussions.

"We have suggested to the employers that we meet formally on Wednesday and Thursday next week," said New Zealand Resident Doctors' Association national secretary Deborah Powell.

The strike was called following the breakdown of talks aimed at resolving issues of work hours and days. Junior doctors could work up to 12 consecutive days and up to 16 hours a day, or seven nights in a row.

Dr Powell said junior doctors had been well supported in their action.

"There has been immense public support for the resident doctors. In addition to that demonstrated on Facebook, letters to various editors etc, we have had people ringing the office and emailing," she said.

The association had been invited back to the bargaining table.

The DHB's national lead CEO for the 20 DHBs' Workforce and Employment Relations Programmes, Julie Patterson, said the DHBs had previously made three offers prior to the strike, each of which included review of all the remaining rosters of concern to the Union.

"It is now time for the union to be constructive," she said.

Dr Powell said she hoped the DHBs would hear not just the doctors, "but inevitably the public, who are our patients, and their families, are saying so we can get a resolution".

She had previously said that while the DHBs had made a commitment to have no more than four consecutive night shifts and no more than 10 consecutive working days, the association wanted a contractual obligation to those hours.

The two parties had divergent views on the issue of pay and how that related to the suggested shift patterns, and on penal rates.

"The DHBs have tried to claw back the penal component of our salary," said Dr Powell.

"Penal rates compensate workers for working unsocial hours, such as weekends. We will still be working all the weekends so we have refused to give up our penal compensation."

Mrs Patterson said the DHBs wanted to engage in the suggested roster changes to address resident medical officers (RMOs) concerns about hours of work in a way that didn't compromise the quality of the current services provided to patients by RMOs and ensured the RMOs continue to enjoy world class training opportunities.

"The RMOs are our country's future medical workforce so it is critical that we work with their union to find an approach which fairly balances these outcomes," said Mrs Patterson.

"But the union needs to be clear that insisting DHBs continue to pay RMOs for days they are no longer working, isn't justifiable or sustainable."

Mrs Patterson said the DHBs were extremely grateful to their Senior Medical Officers and nurses, and to the many non-striking RMOs, for working to ensure that public hospitals continued to be able to provide critical health services over the course of the strike.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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