Rotorua Daily Post health and business reporter

Doctors' strike nears end

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It has been quieter than usual at Rotorua Hospital's emergency department during the doctors' strike. PHOTO/FILE
It has been quieter than usual at Rotorua Hospital's emergency department during the doctors' strike. PHOTO/FILE

There have been no major incidents at Rotorua Hospital during the 48-hour junior doctors' strike - with the hospital resuming normal business from 7am tomorrow. Lakes District Health Board communications officer Sue Wilkie said it had been quieter than usual at Rotorua Hospital's emergency department during the strike period, which began at 7am on Tuesday.

Miss Wilkie said the strike had run calmly across both hospitals so far, without incident.

Occupancy at the hospitals sat at 77 per cent at midday today.About two thirds of Rotorua Hospital's 75 junior doctors went on strike after a dispute over rosters and working hours.

The union says the hours are unsafe while district health boards, which are bargaining collectively, said their latest offer would give doctors some of the best conditions in the world.

The strike resulted in the postponement of 52 elective procedures at Rotorua Hospital and saw several outpatient clinics rescheduled or reduced to allow doctors to concentrate on emergency and acute patients.

Read more:
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Miss Wilkie said all the elective procedures originally scheduled for the two days of the strike had been rescheduled, generally within the next month.

Contingency planner Kellie Lash said patients coming into the hospitals had been informed the strike could mean a longer wait, and people had taken that on board, with lower than usual numbers coming to the emergency department.

Rotorua-based New Zealand First list MP Fletcher Tabuteau said junior doctors had his full support.

"Their concerns are valid and we know that they have not taken the decision to strike lightly - the situation is dire and the main concern is for patient safety."

He believed the Government should have a role in improving conditions and make sure district health boards were adequately funded.

"The sector has suffered for years due to chronic underfunding and we are calling for the Government to urgently address this situation."

A spokeswoman for Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell's office said he supported the right of workers to strike.

Labour Party Waiariki candidate Tamati Coffey said in his view the doctors' strike was the "inevitable result" of cuts in health funding.

"That's serious when we've got junior doctors saying they are falling asleep at the wheel on the way home from work.

"We want every Kiwi to get the best healthcare and that means doctors who are at the top of their game not overworked and at the end of their tether."

But Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman said claims health funding had been cut were incorrect.

"Under this Government health expenditure share of GDP has averaged 6.5 per cent - that's up from the previous Government's level of under 6 per cent. Over the last eight years, health funding has kept ahead of demographic pressures and inflation."

Rotorua MP Todd McClay said he hoped junior doctors and Lakes District Health Board would find a way to continue discussions.

"I appreciate that many people work extremely hard in the local health system and once the 48-hour action is over I would encourage the parties to remain constructive in their talks."

He said health had remained the Government's number one funding priority with Budget 2016 allocating an extra $2.2 billion over four years, bringing total spending this year to a record $16.1b, an increase of $568 million. That was the biggest increase in seven years, he said.

"Lakes DHB has benefited from this increase in funds receiving $322m for 2016/2017 year, including an increase of $15m. Overall, that's $76m more over the past eight years."

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has said he is keen to see negotiators on both sides of the dispute back at the table and talking constructively. He has stood by the current system for junior doctors.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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