Eighty radiographers throughout the Bay of Plenty region walked off the job yesterday in hopes of achieving better pay and changes to staffing numbers. Reporter Jean Bell checks in after the first of two walkouts this week.
X-ray machines in Rotorua and Taupō hospitals lay largely untouched yesterday as all but two radiographers went on strike in protest at staff shortages and pay.
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The 24-hour strike started at 7am and saw 27 radiographers employed by Lakes District Health Board walk off the job.
The action is the first of two strikes this week, with a second 24-hour strike set to start tomorrow at 7 am.
The local walkouts joined more than 1000 radiographers striking around the country this week.
This industrial action follows nearly nine months of failed negotiations between the radiographer's union, Apex, and DHBs.
Rotorua Hospital radiographer and Apex union representative Victoria Middleton, who has worked at the hospital for more than five years, was among those on strike.
She said an average day saw her start work at 8am and "fingers crossed" she would finish on time at 4.30pm.
Middleton said it was hard to take a tea break due to the nature of the job and she would sometimes continue scanning through lunch breaks due to the number of patients and the complexity of the work.
Some weekends shifts would see her be on-call, where she would finish an average day and then often be called back to work multiple times throughout the night.
She said the long hours had a major impact on her physical and mental well-being.
"I will need to sleep some of Saturday to feel human again but won't feel right until Sunday," she said.
"A shift like this has an impact on my family life. [I'm] tired, grumpy, and not able to do the physical exercise I want to undertake to feel better because I am so tired."
She had considered going into private practice where the hours and pay was better with fewer on-call hours.
"I do however have an allegiance to the public health system and would feel very sad to see it fail any further due to another staff loss," she said.
"I love my job and I am very passionate about providing the best service possible to all patients, you never know when one of those patients will be a family member or yourself."
A response was sought from Lakes DHB regarding Middleton's comment but a spokeswoman said the DHB had no comment to make on the issue.
The Lakes DHB spokeswoman said the DHB only had two radiographers who were not union members and all other radiographers rostered would strike during the week.
The spokeswoman said Rotorua Hospital had 23 radiographers with one radiographic assistant, while Taupō Hospital had three radiographers.
"We have two vacant positions due to very recent parental leave which we are expecting to fill very shortly."
She said no elective procedures had to be cancelled due to yesterday's strikes but health services requiring medical imaging would be significantly reduced during the strikes.
Spokesman for DHBs, Nigel Trainor, said in their view the radiographer strikes had been co-ordinated by Apex to occur at the same time as action by laboratory workers, sonographers and psychologists in an effort to place increased pressure on DHBs and gain a more advantageous settlement.
Apex national secretary Deborah Powell said Trainor's comments were "completely wrong" and the strikes had not been purposely co-ordinated together.
She said bargaining with radiographers had begun in November 2018 and the radiographers were only on strike as DHBs had "U-turned" and made an unsatisfactory offer.
- There will be two strikes by staff at Rotorua and Taupō hospitals this week.
- The second strike will run from 7am on Wednesday to 7am on Thursday. The first strike was yesterday. - The staff on strike include those who usually provide general x-ray imaging, including portable and theatre imaging, CT, MRI and fluoroscopy.
- Expect delays in the emergency department during the strikes and make your GP the 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.
Source: Lakes District Health Board