Doctors across the Bay of Plenty will be putting a pause to elective services this week to attend stop-work meetings following broken-down pay negotiations.
A total of 88 specialist doctors and dentists from the Lakes District Health Board and 224 from Bay of Plenty DHB will discuss further action after the DHBs continue to come back with a zero per cent increase.
The action, by members of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), will take place across the nation, with Lakes being the first to hold its meeting today.
Tauranga and Whakatāne Hospital doctors will follow suit tomorrow.
As a result, elective surgeries and specialist outpatient clinics have been deferred across the region.
ASMS executive director Sarah Dalton said doctors were asking for a 1.5 per cent pay increase in the first year of a two-year term, with inflation (CPI) adjustment in the second year.
Dalton said specialists' salaries started at around $160,000. She admitted it sounded like a lot, but wanted people to remember the six-year degree and at least 10 years working to become a specialist while also carrying the medical-legal responsibility.
"We think it's pretty reasonable, we just want to stop this pay standing still and effectively going backwards.
"It's not acceptable."
Dalton said the health sector was heavily reliant on migrant workers, who made up 40 per cent of the workforce. That combined with the long-term effects of a training shortage were beginning to show and it was putting pressure on those already in the workforce.
Dalton believed it was reaching a crisis point.
"Even though the minister has told the health unions the pay restraint advice shouldn't preclude cost-of-living adjustments, shouldn't preclude genuine bargaining for collective agreements, it clearly has.
"The DHB chief executives have taken the message from the public service commission that they're not interested in pay increases with anyone earning more than $100,000.
"And so we're really stuck. But we've got a really frustrated workforce because they feel that they're bearing the brunt of serious acute demand."
A DHB spokeswoman said negotiations began in February but it was not appropriate to discuss details while talks continued.
"We continue to engage in good faith and consistent with other health sector settlements and the Government's expectation about employment relations and pay restraint.
"Reporting back to members is part of the process and there is provision for paid stop-work meetings which are planned for hospitals around the country."
A Lakes DHB spokeswoman confirmed it had deferred specialist outpatient clinics for the afternoon to allow senior doctors to attend the meeting.
"Elective surgeries for the afternoon have also been deferred. Acute surgeries will continue if required. Affected patients have been notified and appointments rescheduled."
Bay of Plenty DHB hospital services business leader Dorothy McKeown said there would be some delays and reduction of planned care services during the meeting however lists had been adjusted.
"There may be some increase in delay within the emergency department, however all patients will be seen as per their presenting acuity."
Minister of Health Andrew Little was approached for comment but said it was not his place to comment on operational matters.