Hundreds of people in the Bay of Plenty will be affected by a 48-hour junior doctors' strike next week, as 100 elective surgeries and 549 outpatient appointments are postponed at Tauranga and Whakatāne hospitals.
Mediation between the district health boards (DHBs) and the New Zealand Resident Doctors' Association this week failed to prevent the planned nationwide strike action.
DHBs nationwide are now preparing to reduce services to a minimum on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The association has also announced there will be another strike later this month.
The Bay of Plenty District Health Board's contingency planning lead, Neil McKelvie, said emergency and essential services would be maintained during next week's strike, for urgent medical care.
However, services that can be postponed will be.
"We have reduced the demand on services and reduced patient numbers, by postponing our non-essential, non-acute and elective procedures," McKelvie said.
He said 100 elective surgical operations and 549 outpatient appointments had been postponed and the DHB did not anticipate further postponements at this stage.
About 650 people would be affected, McKelvie said.
"As the postponements range across all services which have different capacity levels we cannot state the length of postponement. However, we will be prioritising the rebooking of these as quickly as possible in each service."
Patients who have a scheduled surgery or outpatients appointment during next week's strike will either have already been contacted by the DHB, or will be shortly, and will be given details of what the changes mean for them.
"Our priority is ensuring we keep everyone safe – patients and staff alike."
There are 192 junior doctors employed by the Bay of Plenty DHB, but it is not clear how many will be striking from 7am on Tuesday to 7am on Thursday.
A media spokesman for the association said it was impossible to say how many of its members would be striking in Tauranga and Whakatāne.
"What I can say is that membership in Bay of Plenty is strong, and our members are adamant that this is not something they are going to give up on."
Dr Nicolas Thorburn has been working as a doctor at Tauranga Hospital since November 2016 and is an New Zealand Resident Doctors' Association delegate for the Bay of Plenty region.
"These strikes are not about pay. These strikes are about our workers' rights," the 29-year-old said yesterday.
He said the doctors did not want more; they just wanted to retain what they already had.
"The DHBs are wanting to remove a number of clauses that protect us as workers."
Dr Peter Bramley, a spokesman for the DHBs, said they were trying to negotiate an agreement that enabled clinicians and hospital managers to make decisions about work rosters for junior doctors that delivered better care and better training opportunities.
He said the DHBs and the association agreed in 2016 to trial a new roster system for junior doctors, to address concerns about work hours.
Dr Bramley said the roster did not meet the training needs of a significant number of doctors and complicated safe patient care.
"Senior doctors, junior doctors and medical colleges have all raised concerns about the current rostering approach which we are attempting to now change."
However, the association has said the DHBs are pursuing clawbacks in terms and provisions of the Multi-Employer Collective Agreement.
The association said the clawbacks would remove the protection of the union and expose vulnerable junior doctors to disruptive and dangerous work conditions.
Yesterday afternoon, it released plans for a second two-day strike on January 29 and 30.
Bramley said the DHBs were committed to being good employers and would not subject junior doctors to disruptive or dangerous work conditions.
He said the DHBs' offer would maintain safe working rosters.