People tooting, waved and cheered their support for striking junior doctors outside Auckland City Hospital this morning.

From 7am today, hospitals from around the country were without 3300 junior doctors for the next 48 hours - around 80 per cent of DHB-employed junior doctors.

This morning the doctors - some who had come straight off a night shift - were making noise about their working rights.

Medical registrar Patrick O'Regan - a third-year junior doctor at Auckland City Hospital - said it wasn't about the pay.


"These are issues of staffing and wellbeing for us. This is about safety of staff and patients," O'Regan told the Herald.

The 26-year-old said under current negotiations, that had been underway for the last year, DHBs could make junior doctors work 16 or more hours in a row and move the employees to any hospital in the country with little notice.

"Already it's common for us to work 10 to 12 days in a row with a couple of 15 to 16-hour shifts packed in."

However, DHBs say they "strongly dispute" these claims.

DHB spokesman Dr Peter Bramley said it was untrue for the union to say the DHB wanted to move junior doctors around the country at will.

"Rosters across multiple hospitals in non-urban areas and any combined duty and on-call period of more than 16 consecutive hours currently requires the approval of the RDA.''

O'Regan said although DHBs have said approval of the RDA will be required, DHBs will have the finally say.

"So they could say you'll be doing six months in Auckland and then six months in Hawke's Bay with no say."

Junior doctors on the picket line outside Auckland Hospital. Photo / Leon Menzies
Junior doctors on the picket line outside Auckland Hospital. Photo / Leon Menzies

O'Regan said already fatigue was an issue and these changes would only worsen the problem.

"We have had no budge from the DHBs but will continue to strike until we see some changes to negotiations."

A second 48-hour strike is planned for January 29-30 and a vote on a third strike is already under way, a Resident Doctors' Association spokesman said.

Tomorrow, junior doctors from Waikato DHB will be picketing on Pembroke St, near Waikato Hospital, at 7.45am for an hour.

An Auckland DHB spokeswoman said the DHB promised patient safety would remain a priority but non-urgent and non-acute services have been 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."

Yesterday District Health Boards' national contingency planner, Anne Aitcheson, told the Herald thousands of surgeries would be deferred.

For some patients it will be "considerable weeks" before they head off again for surgery, she said.

"It isn't like a one-off event where we can plan the resumption - we need to continue to monitor it and ensure we are delivering acute services first."

She said patients would be kept informed and all affected patients had been contacted directly by phone, text or letter.

However, today Auckland DHBs said a total of 118 operations had been postponed - 86 at Auckland City, 23 at Counties Manakau and nine at Waitemata DHB.

An Auckland DHB spokeswoman said on average 1200 surgeries were carried out each week at Auckland DHB.

"The majority of surgery is continuing through the 48-hour strike period, but regretfully 86 surgeries have had to be deferred."

Any concerns who should patients contact?

Unless urgent, patients were advised to call their own general practice team first or call Healthline on 0800 611 116. If urgent, call 111.