The national junior doctors strike kicks off this morning with more than 200 outpatient clinics and 40 surgeries postponed at Hawke's Bay Hospital.

District health board doctors who are members of the Resident Doctors Association are striking for 48 hours, from 7am today until 7am on Thursday.

The junior doctors said they were having to work 12 consecutive days with some of the shifts being up to 16 hours long, which was unsafe for patients and too tiring for them.

A spokeswoman for the country's 20 DHBs has said the 12 days comprise five week days, a weekend and the following five week days.


The DHBs are willing to give two days off on week days but the junior doctors want to be paid for them, which is effectively a pay rise.

Hawke's Bay Hospital chief medical officer, Dr John Gommans, said the two weeks' notice had allowed them to prepare as best they could for the strike.

"The acute and emergency aspects of the hospital would remain largely unaffected, and this included Intensive care and maternity care.

"We have taken the older and non-unionised staff from the clinics and surgery departments, which means the essential services are adequately staffed. The problem lies with clinics and patient operations."

He said because they had taken the senior doctors and nurses from those other departments outpatient clinics and surgeries had to be postponed until a later date.

"With the public holiday coming up on Friday and Monday things will already be pushed back."

He encouraged people to use their general practitioner so the emergency department would not become overloaded during the 48 hour period.

"We are confident we can offer a safe service during the strike but we do ask if people can see their GP first it would be better for everyone unless it was an emergency."

He wanted to reassure the public that if they do need emergency assistance they are able to come in to the department as staff are available.

"Look after yourself not only over the next 48 hours but also during the long weekend."

The last strike by junior doctors occurred in 2008.