Tauranga doctors fighting to keep current work conditions have used their first day of strike action to clean up Mount Maunganui's main beach.
As junior doctors in other parts of New Zealand spent yesterday in picket lines outside hospitals, a group of about 30 from Tauranga gathered at the beach to collect rubbish. The strike comes following a breakdown in negotiations between the doctors and district health boards.
Armed with gloves, rubbish bags, and signs and stickers advertising their cause, the group spent about two hours combing through the sand and dunes for wayward trash.
Dr Michelle Stewart said many local doctors wanted to do something positive with the time they would have normally spent working.
"We really enjoy working at Tauranga Hospital and we didn't want to be seen to be negative (by standing outside with signs)," she said.
"We wanted to give back to the community in some way."
The strike began at 7am yesterday and continues until 7am tomorrow. It has caused the postponements of 100 elective surgeries and 549 outpatients appointments at Tauranga and Whakatāne hospitals. About 650 people in the Bay of Plenty District Health Board area are believed to be affected.
However, the Tauranga doctors' message was not lost in their change of tack. During the rubbish collection, striking doctors wore campaign stickers and carried signs with messages including "We will clean up the beaches if the DHBs clean up their act", and "Tired doctors make mistakes".
Stewart said junior doctors were fighting to keep their current working conditions the same. They were not asking for more money, "we just want to keep what we have had in the past".
In Auckland, striking junior doctors gathered outside the city hospital amid tooting, waving and cheering from supporters passing by.
New Zealand Resident Doctors' Association president Dr Courtney Brown said it was "disappointing and frustrating that we are being forced to strike just to keep our terms and conditions".
The association said the DHBs wanted to remove a number of clauses that protected junior doctors.
A second 48-hour strike is planned for January 29-30 and a vote on a third strike is already under way.
Bay of Plenty District Health Board contingency planning lead Neil McKelvie said the hospital was busy yesterday, as usual.
Patients were coming through the emergency department and there had been no significant issues, McKelvie said.
"Feedback from the staff is a general feeling that they are busy, but coping with the demands of in-patients and presentations at ED."
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