Striking doctors find time for their community

By Alexandra Newlove -
Doctors Catriona Trainer (left) and Ruth Bollen help Maunu Primary pupils Layana Joshy (centre) and Sam Groome dress for the job. Photo / John Stone
Doctors Catriona Trainer (left) and Ruth Bollen help Maunu Primary pupils Layana Joshy (centre) and Sam Groome dress for the job. Photo / John Stone

They're exhausted, but striking Whangarei resident doctors found time to do some good in their community during their brief time off work.

Yesterday, some of the 80 doctors on a 48-hour strike from Whangarei Hospital turned up to Maunu School to talk to students about health and wellbeing.

The resident doctors, sometimes called junior doctors, are campaigning for better rosters. Currently, some shift patterns required 12 consecutive work days - up to 16 hours a shift - followed by two days off, or, up to seven consecutive 10-hour night shifts.

The New Zealand Resident Doctors Association (NZRDA) has organised the nationwide strike involving up to 3000 doctors and was 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.

NZRDA national secretary Deborah Powell said the doctors were making the strike a "positive experience".

"We're striking for safer hours, but are not missing an opportunity to do some good as well," she said.

Doctors in Gisborne were planting a community garden on hospital grounds, while those elsewhere in the country were giving CPR training, assisting with blood drives and at volunteer ambulance services.

One of the Northland doctors - Katie Griggs - told the Advocate last week there were mixed emotions about the strike, but that they were determined to have safer rosters for the sake of patients.

"It's much more likely you'll make a prescribing error when your brain is tired and it's easy to miss small details. In medicine it's the small details that really make the difference," she said.

The doctors' strike began at 7am on Tuesday and ends at 7am tomorrow . A contingency plan had been put in place at Whangarei Hospital, with some non-urgent appointments and surgery rescheduled. The Emergency Department was fully functional and none of Northland's other hospitals were affected.

Northland DHB chief medical officer Mike Roberts said: "The key message is that urgent care will be safe . . . For minor problems we ask that people go to their GP or White Cross."

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