Northland DHB is assuring patients it will be business as usual at Whangarei's emergency department today and tomorrow, despite a strike in which more than 80 doctors walk off the job.

Yesterday, Northland DHB was still unsure how many patients were having non-urgent surgery and appointments rescheduled as a result of the industrial action, but said urgent care would be safe and fully operational.

Chief medical officer Dr Mike Roberts said unless patients were contacted, they were not affected.

"Please be assured, if your surgery or appointment does have to be postponed, you will be re-booked," he said.

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The nationwide 48-hour action starting at 7am today was aimed at securing safer shift patterns for resident doctors, sometimes called junior doctors. Current rosters required the doctors to work up to 12 days in a row, or up to 7 nights. Northland DHB employed 102 resident doctors.

Services at Whangarei Hospital including outpatient clinics, elective surgery and some operating theatres would be affected. Patients at Whangarei requiring some types of inpatient care would be transferred to other hospitals if required. Northland's other hospitals would be unaffected.

Dr Roberts said: "The key message today is that urgent care will be safe and that people can still come to ED if they are feeling unwell. For minor problems we ask that people go to their GP or White Cross."

The New Zealand Resident Doctors Association (NZRDA) has organised the nationwide strike involving more than 3000 doctors. It is asking for rosters to include a maximum of 10-day shifts followed by four days off, and a maximum of four nights in a row.

The striking Northland doctors would spend the two days resting, and some planned to speak to school children about careers in medicine.