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Hopes that discord between resident doctors and district health boards might be settled quickly took a blow yesterday after the union announced a second strike.
The doctors — who are scheduled to walk off the job for 48 hours from 7am on Tuesday — also plan to strike on January 29 and 30.
Mediation talks between the parties failed earlier this week, and doctors’ union the New Zealand Resident Doctors Association (NZRDA) yesterday termed the dispute as "bitter".
"This vote for a second strike testifies to their resolve," union organiser David Munro said.
"The resident medical officers are clearly not going to be backing down."
Thousands of patients nationwide, including hundreds in the southern region, are being contacted by district health board
staff to advise them operations and appointments scheduled for next week are being postponed.
The strike will affect Wakari and Dunedin Hospitals, Southland Hospital, Lakes District Hospital and all community-based health services where NZRDA junior doctors employed by the SDHB work.
SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming said he was disappointed NZRDA members had voted to strike.
"It will have an impact on the services we deliver which will extend beyond the two days of the strike," he said.
"At this time, we’re still finalising our rosters and so cannot yet say how many NZRDA doctors will be striking next week."
Senior medical officers and some resident medical officers would work during the strike.
"We are still determining how many planned surgeries will have to be postponed," Mr Fleming said.
"The situation is fluid and is changing as we get further clarity about who will be working on the day of the strikes."
All hospitals will remain open during the strike and essential and urgent services — including emergency departments, acute surgery, intensive care, cancer treatments, maternity services and renal dialysis — will be provided.