Whangārei junior doctor Hemi Enright fears the possibility of working up to 12 days straight if the current dispute between his union and the Northland District Health Board remains unresolved.
About 86 or nearly 72 percent of the 120 junior doctors working in Whangārei, Bay of Islands, Kaitaia and Dargaville hospitals stopped work for two days last week and another round of strikes is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday next week.
The move follows failed mediation talks between the doctors who belong to the New Zealand Resident Doctors' Association (NZRDA) and the Northland DHB.
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.
SToNZ members signed a contract with the DHBs around the country last month that allows them to work up to a maximum of 14 days — a scenario Enright fears may fall upon him if negotiations fail and once his current contract runs out in the middle of next month.
The present employment clauses governing NZRDA members, including 10-days-on, four-days-off shift two to three times every three months, expire in February.
After that, junior doctors such as Enright fear the Northland DHB may enforce the contract SToNZ members signed lately that allows for a 12-days-on, two-days-off shift.
DHBs and NZRDA bargaining teams will return to mediation today to try and reach a solution before the second phase of strike action.
Enright, who started work in the Whangārei Hospital's surgical unit two months ago, said the push now was to preserve the existing clauses in his employment agreement.
"Having already worked my first 10-day shift, I felt pretty exhausted at the end of that so I feel doing 12-days straight would be physically demanding for me.
"I hope the union and DHBs come to a resolution and we don't have to strike again otherwise elective procedures will have to be postponed again."
Northland DHB was forced to reschedule 24 appointments for elective surgery and a further 115 for outpatient clinic including surgical, medical, paediatric, maternity and cancer when the junior doctors went on strike last week.
All affected patients were individually contacted.
DHB spokesperson Dr Peter Bramley the district health boards were hoping for the best but preparing for the worst heading into mediation today.
"The issues at stake for DHBs are crucial to supporting the way patient care is delivered at a local level – that allows for rosters that support fewer handovers, better medical teamwork and enhanced training for RMOs.
"We understand the RDA is already balloting for further strikes in February – that's hardly good faith and suggests it's already made up its mind not to find a solution," Bramley said.