Appointments are being postponed and rescheduled ahead of a nationwide junior doctors strike starting next week.
Waikato District Health Board is rescheduling about 530 outpatient appointments and 98 inpatient appointments so senior doctors can focus on caring for patients in the emergency department, intensive care, and maternity during the strike, which runs from 7am on October 18 to 7am on October 20.
All patients whose operations or clinical appointments are affected by the strike are being notified by telephone or mail. Not all clinics are being rescheduled, so the DHB is asking patients who have not been notified to please attend for their appointment.
The DHB employs 390 junior doctors, mostly working out of Waikato Hospital, about 60 per cent of these are members of the junior doctors' union, the Resident Doctors Association (RDA). As part of contingency planning the hospital is planning for all of these members to strike.
"Junior doctors are a vital part of the healthcare team at Waikato Hospital and this strike will affect our ability to carry out services," said , Brett Paradine, Waikato Hospital services executive director.
"We will need to reduce the number of patients in the hospital over the period leading up to and during the proposed industrial action."
All of New Zealand's 20 DHBs will be affected by the action, which will involve a complete withdrawal of labour by RDA members. The district health board's other hospitals in Thames, Te Kuiti, Taumarunui and Tokoroa are mostly unaffected by the strike.
Should the strike notice be lifted, services will resume.
"We really appreciate our senior doctors' assistance and will be doing all we can to provide them with support during the strike," Paradine said.
"We are reminding the public to keep our emergency department for emergencies only. If your illness or injury is not urgent you may face long delays. It's better to go to your family doctor or local private accident and medical clinic when symptoms first appear rather than becoming seriously ill and needing emergency services."
Patients can also contact Healthline for advice on 0800 611 611. The DHB also has a new free online out-of-hours doctor service for people who can't get to see a doctor easily on an evening or weekends. For details on how to sign up, visit waikatodhb.health.nz/virtualdhb.
The hospital has set up a helpline number for those who are unsure about their appointment. The number is 0800 276 216.