Whether or not their roster demands are met, one thing the striking junior doctors have achieved is an increase in public awareness around their working conditions.

About 3000 district health board doctors who are members of the Resident Doctors Association started striking at 7am on Tuesday - returning to work at 7am this morning. Tauranga and Rotorua Hospitals were among those affected, though both were reporting no problems as a result.

Over the past week or so media outlets across New Zealand have given wide coverage to the strike.

We have heard of doctors falling asleep at the wheel on the way home from a shift, of doctors having to be reminded by nurses about medications and one doctor admit there was no way on earth he would want to be treated by a tired him.


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Which is obviously a worry. We rely on our doctors, including the junior or resident doctors who are often working at the coalface, to be at the top of their game at all times.

The decisions they make can be the difference between life and death. A job doesn't get more important than that.

No one doubts doctors' commitment to their careers. Even while at medical school, they are working long days and nights in hospitals while studying in their 'spare' time.

Long hours and stress comes with the territory but when doctors are standing up and admitting they are making mistakes through fatigue and they are concerned for their patients' safety, it's time to listen.

Presumably just training and hiring more doctors is too simplistic a solution - how to make that happen is for smarter minds than mine.

But the overwhelming public support for the strike has sent a strong message to DHBs and government that New Zealanders want doctors who are alert and at their best, always.