30 Dec 2016

Junior doctors plan further strike action in January

4:21 pm on 30 December 2016

More than 3000 doctors around the country are set to strike again in the New Year, after negotiations over rosters stalled before Christmas.

Christchurch Junior Doctors Strike

Doctors on earlier strike action in October. Photo: RNZ / Andrew Collins

Junior doctors held a 48-hour strike in October, saying rosters were unsafe and demanding 12 consecutive days of work be reduced to 10.

The District Health Boards (DHBs) agreed to the reduction, but the New Zealand Resident Doctors' Association said negotiations came to a standstill shortly before Christmas.

National secretary Deborah Powell said it had now voted to take further strike action over three days from 17 January.

"We've given the DHBs our membership lists so they can plan for the strike, and there are over 3000 members [of the Association] that are on that list, so you can expect around 3000 doctors to take part in this action," she said.

Dr Powell said she hoped the DHBs would act before then.

"We are hopeful that we can get this settled, but having said that we were hopeful we could get this settled before the October strike, and obviously we were unsuccessful at that point in time. But we will only get this settled around a bargaining table and we are hopeful we would be able to see the DHBs at the table, and get a resolution, before the strike starts."

Dr Powell said it was important doctors got a clear idea of how the rosters would work, and if they allowed for proper recuperation.

"The issue is the same [as October] it's just about how to really nail this down. So for instance, when will time off be? Will it be recoperative and meaningful for the doctors or will it be just time they can't usefully spend?

"For example, the DHBs have suggested that the day we do a night shift, so the day we're sleeping in preparation for the night shift, should be a rostered day off. But we've said, 'no that's not a day off, it's a day we're sleeping so we can work the night, so there's disputes about that."

She said recent suggestions by the DHBs surrounding how doctors are covered on their day off was concerning.

"Previously we had agreed the doctors taking days off would be replaced by another doctor, but the DHBs are now suggesting that some of those that remain on duty should pick up the work of the missing doctor in addition to their normal workload, but that just means safer hours, with unsafe workloads."

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