Hospitals cope with doctors' strike

Members of the Resident Doctors Association union and supporters picket near Dunedin Hospital yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Members of the Resident Doctors Association union and supporters picket near Dunedin Hospital yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
As much as possible, it was business as usual yesterday in local hospitals, despite the resident doctors strike, the Southern District Health Board says.

More than 3000 resident doctors nationwide stopped work yesterday for 48 hours, which resulted in the postponement of hundreds of operations and appointments in the southern region.

''Contingency planning based around minimising the impact of the strike on the people and communities we serve ... has so far been effective and our hospitals are coping,'' SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming said.

''While the teams are coping well, Dunedin Hospital emergency department is currently very busy.''

All hospitals in the South have been affected by the strike, but remain open for emergencies and essential care.

Medical professionals are legally unable to strike unless plans are in place to provide life-preserving services.

Mr Fleming said he was unable to give an accurate figure of how many junior doctors were on strike yesterday.

Eighty-one junior doctors were employed at Southland Hospital and 155 at Dunedin and Wakari hospitals.

''We don't have the number of how many of these doctors are a member of the NZRDA (union), but of our junior doctors approximately 25 reported for work at Southland Hospital and 75 reported for work at Dunedin and Wakari this morning.''

Dunedin resident doctors and supporters staged a small but noisy picket yesterday.

House officer Rosa Tobin Stickings said on an average week a junior doctor like her could be rostered on for 50-60 hours, but the demands of the job often meant them working longer.

Dr Tobin Stickings - a local organiser for the Resident Doctors Association - said under the proposal from district health boards, resident doctors faced losing rostered days off for extended hours and weekend work.

''The proposed changes mean they could impose the rosters they want on us without having much consultation or protection from our union.''

DHBs spokesman Peter Bramley has said the organisations had been trying to negotiate an agreement which enabled clinicians and hospital managers to make decisions locally about work rosters.

''The impact of working long shifts was a key driver in the DHBs' desire to introduce more flexible rostering, with consultation and involvement of local clinicians and hospital managers,'' Dr Bramley said.

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