Planned doctors' strikes have forced the Northland District Health Board to reschedule some non-urgent appointments at public hospitals.
About 86 or nearly 72 per cent of the 120 resident medical officers (RMOs) working in Whangārei, Bay of Islands, Kaitaia and Dargaville hospitals have decided to stop work
on Tuesday and Wednesday next week as well as on January 29 and 30.
The move follows failed mediation talks between the doctors and the Northland DHB on Wednesday and Thursday this week.
The striking doctors belong to the New Zealand Resident Doctors' Association which has been negotiating better working conditions with Northland DHB for more than an year.
Other resident doctors were either members of Speciality Trainees of New Zealand (SToNZ) or were on individual employment agreements.
They practise in all areas of medicine at public hospitals in Northland.
The 48-hour strikes start at 7am on January 15 and 29.
About 3300 resident doctors working for all DHBs throughout New Zealand will be on strike.
Northland District Health Board chief medical officer Dr Mike Roberts said contingency planning was under way and hospitals in the region would provide emergency and life-preserving services, including some cancer treatments, throughout the strike.
"Our message to the public is: if you need our care, we are here. Unfortunately, public hospitals would not be able to provide all non-urgent and non-acute services, and some patient appointments were being rescheduled.
"Patients should still come to their scheduled appointment or surgery on the strike days unless we have contacted them directly to say their appointment is being rescheduled."
The number of non-urgent and outpatient appointments that have to be rescheduled are still being worked out.
"We respect our RMOs' right to strike. RMOs work extremely hard and care immensely for our patients, and we know the decision to strike is a very difficult decision for each individual to make," Roberts said.
Association national secretary Dr Deborah Powell said resident doctors were made to work for more than 16 hours a day which was unreasonable.
"The DHBs are trying to take off the terms and conditions that we've had in place for 20 to 30 years and one of the conditions is the long hours resident doctors could be required to work."
She said DHBs were also attempting to remove the right of resident doctors to either join or remain union members.
Powell said it was disappointing and frustrating that resident doctors were being forced to strike just to keep their terms and conditions of employment.
Association president Dr Courtney Brown said the DHBs' position meant resident doctors could be moved to any hospital in the country as their employer saw fit.
"RMOs could lose access to education and training, jeopardising the quality of care we are able to deliver to our patients, and a whole lot more."
She said resident doctors have no other option than to strike to ensure a continuation of the terms and conditions of their employment.