Only urgent cases will be treated at Rotorua and Taupō Hospitals this week as junior doctors walk off the job for the fourth time this year.

The five-day strike that began at 8am today and will finish at 8am on Saturday, was called over a failure by both the New Zealand Resident Doctors Association (NZRDA) and the 20 District Health Boards (DHBs) to agree on proposed changes to the doctors' employment contract.

The strike covers all DHBs across the country except Canterbury, where the hospital remains under pressure from the March 15 shootings.

Lakes District Health Board communications officer Sue Wilkie said it was expected Rotorua and Taupō Hospitals would be very busy during the strike.


"Lakes DHB is as well prepared as possible for the five-day strike action. Lakes DHB employs some 93 junior doctors, with most of them members of the RDA," Wilkie said in a press release.

"Contingency planning has been on-going for some time to manage the strike action. Some scheduled surgery has been cancelled, along with many outpatient clinics."

Members of the public may have their healthcare plans affected by ongoing industrial action, and that includes on days outside of the actual strike days.

Nick Saville-Wood, Lakes DHB acting chief executive, said DHBs had been continuing to talk to the union to try and settle these negotiations and prevent further industrial action.

"Any changes to our hospital operations are considered necessary to ensure that the safety of our patients in need is not compromised," said Nick Saville-Wood.

NZRDA senior advocate David Munro said members were disappointed about the strike action.

"Our members became doctors so they can treat patients and make a better world. Having to strike simply to retain hard-won improvements to working conditions from past negotiations is deeply upsetting.

"However, there is a solution to be had here. If the DHBs would rethink their stance and withdraw the clawbacks they have made to RMOs terms and conditions of employment, it would certainly assist in finding a quick solution to the dispute."

Facilitation for the long-running dispute over the re-negotiation of the NZRDA/20 DHBs multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) has been set down May 9, 10 and 13 and May 14 after first being applied for by the NZRDA on March 11.

Members of the Rotorua and Taupō public are being reminded to make their GP their first port of call for minor health issues. People can also contact Healthline 0800 611 116 for advice and information from a trusted registered nurse, 24/7.

Any patients uncertain of the status of their appointment can ring 0800 223 647 to check.