Stuart Whitaker is a sports reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times and a general reporter for the Bay News.

Online poll shows robust public support as doctors' strike continues

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Junior doctors from Tauranga Hospital and hospitals around the country are on strike until 7am tomorrow. PHOTO/FILE
Junior doctors from Tauranga Hospital and hospitals around the country are on strike until 7am tomorrow. PHOTO/FILE

The junior doctors' strike which began yesterday continues until tomorrow morning, with local public support for the striking doctors strong.

An informal online poll conducted by the Bay of Plenty Times indicated that there was a large amount of support for striking junior doctors, with 70 per cent of respondents in support of the doctors and just 23 per cent not supportive.

Nationally around 3000 junior doctors were in the middle of a 48-hour strike called after failed talks with district health boards over work hours and days.

The Bay of Plenty DHB had planned for the absence of junior doctors from Tauranga and Whakatane hospitals.

"Both sites have experienced lower than normal Emergency Department (ED) presentations today,'' said BOPDHB medical director Dr Hugh Lees yesterday. ''Tauranga did have a couple of surges in presentations throughout the day but nothing we're not used to handling.

''The response of our communities has been extremely good in both Tauranga and Whakatane and we would like to thank them for their understanding."

Dr Lees reiterated earlier messages that people should go to their GP or to one of the after-hours clinics for non-urgent care and for medical advice there is HealthLine 0800 611 116 available.

"If people need after-hours medical care, they can also call their GP 24/7. When your GP clinic is closed a registered nurse will answer your call and give you the free professional advice you need.''

Meanwhile senior doctors could be heading for a showdown with DHBs over pay for covering during the current junior doctors strike.

At Tauranga Hospital, cover is being provided with a mixture of junior doctors who are not union members and senior doctors.

However, the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) was unhappy the rates of pay for senior doctors for the extra work are at or below the 2008 levels and agreement had not been reached on pay rates for cover prior to the strike starting at 7am yesterday.

"It won't affect [the cover] because people are under an obligation to provide safe care for patients who might be affected by the strike. The messy bit is going to be after [the strike] when they seek the amounts," said ASMS executive director Ian Powell.

Mr Powell said the rates for cover during the past two strikes - in 2008 and 2006 - were agreed in advance "quite amicably".

"This is the first time we have been confronted by a belligerent attitude by the DHBs and we weren't expecting that because we would have thought they would have wanted to have as much certainty as possible for people who are going to be put under stress themselves."

He said that while the ASMS was looking for the 2008 rates adjusted for inflation, it was prepared "to come down" but DHBs had offered varying rates, with the maximum the 2008 rates.

A statement from the Bay of Plenty DHB stated that DHB rates has been proposed by all DHBs, and the DHBs believed the rates were reasonable. It said that all DHBs have agreed to pay up to the 2008 rate on top of the full pay rate and that senior doctor pay had not been an issue at the BOPDHB and would not affect cover during the strike.

Junior doctors in some parts of the country had used the strike as an opportunity to organise volunteer activities to assist others. In Tauranga there was no organised event but, said Tauranga hospital house officer and Resident Doctors' Association Bay of Plenty delegate Dr Ash Ellis, some colleagues were planning on donating blood.

An online poll has indicated that there is a large amount of support for striking junior doctors;
Asked: Do you support the junior doctors striking, 70.52 per cent of respondents answered "yes", while 23.8 per cent answered "no"; 6.42 per cent answered "not sure".
There were 78 responses.

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