Doctors not asking all that much

District Health Board spokeswoman Julie Patterson said that the junior doctors' union was "putting (members' lifestyle interests) ahead of the healthcare needs of the public".

Surely this is tongue-in-cheek? Does she truly believe that it is in the interests of the public to be served by young, inexperienced doctors who have been working for 12 days in a row? Is she being mischievous in suggesting that these same young people should also willingly work seven nights in a row and sacrifice any shred of lifestyle of their own in order to serve the public?

My understanding is that their demands are not huge. They are asking for no more than 10 days in a row (and some of those days are 15-hour days) and no more than 4 nights in a row. To my mind, this still represents huge lifestyle sacrifices. Young doctors should not be asked to be martyrs to the cause and nor should they be put in an unsafe position where sleep deprivation could result in potentially life-threatening mistakes.

Kath Naughton, Havelock North.


Beggars on the streets

When I returned to New Zealand in 1993 after many years overseas, the previously unknown phenomenon of people begging in our streets and living rough was immediately obvious to me. These were the direct consequences of the ideology of politicians such as Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson. They were as ruthless as Maoist Cultural Revolutionaries in the way they vandalised the social fabric of this country.

Bob Jones' comments about beggars are simply the rantings of an old man, and do not deserve the attention of a national newspaper.

Michael Stevens, Freemans Bay.

Gender pay gap

Not withstanding the worrying social activism of New Zealand courts, rather than Parliament, in determining whether a gender earnings gap exists, Phil O'Reilly's column suggests that all will be well after employer/worker negotiation.

Data from the USA shows that where correction is made for hours worked, marital status, age and children at home, there is no such gap. Should the higher wages of single, childless women be negotiated down?

Men suffer well over 90 per cent of work-related deaths. The Law of Unintended Consequences regularly results where good intentions interfere in a free market. Negotiating higher pay for currently "female" occupations will result in more men competing for those roles and more women being killed at riskier occupations.

Stewart Hawkins, St Heliers.

TV One talent

In the deeply cynical world of "popular" news that exists in this country, it is great to see a talent like Melissa Stokes shine so brightly on 1 News. I think they have uncovered a diamond, if not from the rough, then at least from the steady procession on filler pieces that have padded out the network's 6pm news over the Christmas break.

She has the temperament, poise, and easy humour to carry the broadcast with ease and has a great on-screen rapport with her fellow crew like Jenny May and Andrew Saville in sport. She's right there in front of you TVNZ - make the call.

Don Caird, Orakei.


Deborah Hill Cone, 'How Pharmac stole my holiday', regards her opinion piece as a "bona fide public service announcement". However, at best it is a misguided commentary on a personal experience.

Certainly, her pharmacist should have discussed the brand change with her, and this may have alleviated her concerns. However, the symptoms Deborah describes, which occurred "within a day", cannot be attributed to a change in venlafaxine brand and nor could it have resulted in serotonin toxicity - something both her doctor and pharmacist should have been able to reassure her of.

Deborah questions Medsafe's standards for generic equivalence. Generic equivalence is defined similarly by all international regulatory bodies and requires the generic version to demonstrate that both its overall bioavailability and maximum plasma concentration are within the 80-125 per cent of confidence limits of those of the originator brand.

A University of Auckland study of some 10,000 venlafaxine users between 2011 and 2013 could find no difference in health outcomes for those who changed to generic venlafaxine.

Of concern is that with only 12 per cent of patients switching to the generic brand at the time of the study, the opportunity to save millions of dollars was lost. This is the crux of the matter. Pharmac is often blamed for limiting access to new and expensive technologies, yet when an opportunity arises to make savings and enable the funding of these new medicines, the public seems reluctant.

Dr Charon Lessing, lecturer in pharmacology, AUT.

Smoking and Bond

I'd like to suggest to the researchers that films and TV are far less of an influence on smoking or drinking than peer pressure. My one and only puff of a cigarette was thanks to my best buddy, at the age of about 10 or 11. That managed to put me off for life.

Living in a UK city where cigarette manufacture was one of the three largest employers, who then sponsored F1 racing cars, I still didn't smoke. Nor did my brother, who did his apprenticeship there and who was gifted 50 free cigarettes a week as part of his pay package.

However, I was and am a huge James Bond fan, and if the films influenced me in any way at all, it was to cement my passion for Aston Martins - which sadly, I have never managed to own. Why smokers choose to effectively set fire to $20 bills is also beyond me.

Ray Green, Birkenhead.

Hair pulling

James Roberts, a young Broncos player with considerable talent, has had a chequered NRL career. His latest alleged bad behaviour is pulling a young lady's hair and the league's integrity unit is investigating.

Hair pullers are attempting to exert the power they possess or feel they have over another in a less powerful position. In New Zealand, we had the former Prime Minister pulling a waitress's hair. In Roberts' case he might well be fired, the hair pulling following a series of problems. Yet here, we might well reward our hair puller with a knighthood. Ironic isn't it?

Diana Walford, Greenlane.

Station closure

What is Auckland Transport thinking? Closure of the Westfield train station in Otahuhu area will reduce train patronage and put hundreds more cars on the roads.

The claim of Otahuhu station being "a few hundred metres away" is only correct if you walk along the tracks. Google Maps shows it as a 2.2km walk.

The closure of this important station will have similar effect as when the main Otahuhu bus station moved to this new flash terminal on the outskirts of Otahuhu. There has been a noticeable increase in taxis and cars in the town centre since it was relocated a couple of km away.

"Simpler and more integrated" the new station may be, but it is useless if it's too far away.

Simon Judd, OtahuhuCruden's dealI am delighted that Aaron Cruden has chosen to move to France for two seasons. As undoubtedly talented as he is and also being such a genuine and loyal bloke, since Beauden Barrett arrived on the scene Cruden has been basically forgotten - put aside by "expert" correspondents, media and supporters. I would also suggest the All Blacks' management hold similar views. Therefore I wish Aaron Cruden all the best in his move to France.

Les Rockel, Kerikeri.

Footpath cycling

I am a regular cyclist, riding on cycle paths where they exist. However, if there are no cycle paths, I will cycle on the footpath (at proper speed and with great awareness of other users of the footpath). I am prepared to pay a fine, if necessary, to continue this practice. I would consider the cost of a fine cheaper than the costs associated with (strong possibility) a car collision, on our dangerous roads.

I challenge anybody who disagrees with my opinion to take a bike ride on the streets of Auckland. As an aside, my wife and I both drive cars also.

Patrick Deane, Orakei.

Gang clash

Why do we allow gangs to exist? This week again, repugnant behaviour - gangs shooting in the streets of Whakatane at a funeral. I just can't fathom the political will that has allowed gangs to exist, even going as far as offering police protection on this occasion. Is it a misinterpreted Treaty of Waitangi obligation?

Bill Brown, Herne Bay.