About 120 Whangarei patients were affected by the doctors' strike, with the number of people turning to the emergency department also down during the two-day action.

Resident doctor representatives will be back at the bargaining table next week, after a two-day strike which saw about 80 doctors at Whangarei Hospital - and thousands around the country - walk off the job.

The resident doctors, 102 of whom work in Whangarei, form the engine room of most hospitals. The contingency plan in place during their 48-hour absence, which finished at 7am yesterday, went smoothly.

New Zealand Resident Doctors Association secretary Deborah Powell said strikes were meant to cause disruption, but "obviously strikes for doctors are a bit different" because they are concerned for their patients.


"The strike made its point, walking off the job seems to do that. I think this is as much about keeping the public safe as the doctors," Ms Powell said.

A number of the Whangarei doctors volunteered with a primary school on the two days.

At Whangarei Hospital, 21 operations were delayed and 99 adult and 22 paediatric outpatients' appointments were rescheduled. The strike did not affect Northland's other hospitals. Whangarei had fewer presentations over the two days and hospital occupancy fell accordingly.

Northland DHB chief executive Doctor Nick Chamberlain said he was grateful to the public and primary care services for helping to minimise the impact on the hospital. Services are now fully operational.

Ms Powell said the association was holding firm to its demand for a maximum of 10 day shifts in a row, followed by four days off, and a maximum of four night shifts in a row. Currently, residents could work up to 12 days or seven nights in a row.

She acknowledged that Northland DHB had some of the best rosters in the country, but some still needing altering.