Hospital survives strike with little disruption

By Mark Dawson

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The two-day strike by resident doctors ended at 7am Thursday morning with Whanganui Hospital largely unscathed by the action.

The Whanganui District Health Board reported that the hospital had operated at around 90 per cent to 95 per cent of normal capacity on Tuesday and Wednesday during the strike by members of the New Zealand Resident Doctors Association.

The action involved about 17 doctors in Whanganui, and up to 3000 resident doctors nationwide.

The strike was in support of a claim for "safer" working hours, with one Whanganui doctor saying he worked some 14-hour days, and that it was common to be rostered to work 12 days in a row. He said he and other doctors suffered fatigue and that the long hours posed a threat to patient safety.

The health board reported that during the 48 hours from 7am on Tuesday to 7am yesterday, 113 patients had been through the hospital's emergency department, compared to 127 for the same period the previous week.

Six elective surgical cases and 42 outpatient appointments were rescheduled - 18 of the outpatients appointments due to a visiting clinic with a specialist from Wellington being postponed.

"The hospital ran smoothly during the two days and inpatient occupancy levels were quite manageable," the board said.

"We want to thank the patients who had their surgery and outpatients appointments rescheduled. They were all very understanding when contacted."

In many areas, striking doctors took part in positive activities, including visiting schools, donating blood, and baking for local rest homes.

Dr Deborah Powell, national secretary of the Resident Doctors' Association, said numerous organisations had expressed support, including the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), the New Zealand Nurses' Organisation (NZNO) and the Public Service Association (PSA).

"We saw some very encouraging things over those two days. The resident doctors went out of their way to improve their own circumstances and those of the community around them," Dr Powell said.

The association has invited health boards to informal talks on October 26 and 27 in the hope of resolving the dispute.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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