Instead of spending the day flooded with sirens and medical equipment beeps, a group of Bay of Plenty junior doctors spent their strike day immersed in nature listening to the sound of bird song.
During the third day of the five-day strike, 65 of 162 junior doctors employed by Tauranga and Whakatāne Hospitals walked off the job. This equated to about forty per cent of the junior doctors rostered for that day, according to a Bay of Plenty District Health Board spokesman.
A small group of those who walked off the job lent a helping hand to the Aongatete Forest Project, a conservation mission aiming to restore 500 hectares of native forest in the Kaimai Mamaku forest.
Tauranga Hospital junior doctor Dr Ralston D'Souza, who helped organise the junior doctors' involvement, said it was a rewarding experience.
The group joined a group of regular volunteers setting bait for possums and stoats while helping some of the physical tasks.
They also helped set up an enclosure around a rare king fern plant to prevent deer from chomping away on the plant.
The highlight of the day, however, might have been seeing a kererū.
"We were told you wouldn't have seen a bird like that 20 years ago so we're reaping the rewards of people's hard work," he said.
Aongatete Forest Project chairwoman Barbara McGillivray said it was "absolutely fabulous" to have the group along to help with the heavy lifting that was becoming difficult for the regular volunteers.
"We're getting older so it was great to have their strength and muscles.
"They seemed to really enjoy it. They were really interested in the forest [and] really interested in the problems the forest was facing."
Bay of Plenty District Health Board acting chief executive Simon Everitt previously told the Bay of Plenty Times that 76 non–urgent elective theatre procedures and 543 outpatient appointments had been deferred during this five-day strike period.
Everitt said Tauranga and Whakatāne hospitals were "coping well."
"Our focus is the safety of our patients and staff. Priority has been given to ensuring we are able to provide all emergency and essential services and we thank our staff who are providing these services" he said.
The five-day-strike was over a failure by both the New Zealand Resident Doctors Association and the 20 district health boards to agree on proposed changes to the doctors' employment contract.
The strike covers all DHBs across the country except Canterbury, where the hospital remains under pressure from the March 15 shootings.
The main problem for the union was that district health boards wanted hospital chief executives to have the final say over working arrangements, rosters and hours rather than the union head office.
In the event of an emergency, people were urged to dial 111.
If you require medical attention for a situation that is NOT life threatening or an emergency please contact your GP or the free Healthline on 0800 611 116 for health advice in the first instance, 24/7.
Aongatete Forest Project
To learn more about the project visit its website