Nelson Hospital has rescheduled non-urgent elective surgeries due to strike action. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Doctor’s strike causes surgery delays

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Patients expecting to have non-urgent elective surgeries or scheduled outpatient appointments at Nelson Hospital over the past two days have more than likely been delayed.

At 7am on Tuesday, a 48-hour nationwide strike began by Resident Medical Officers who are covered by the New Zealand Resident Doctors’ Association (NZRDA) collective employment agreement.

Resident Medical Officers are registered medical practitioners who range in experience from first-year qualified doctors to those with more than 12 years’ experience.

The doctor’s employment agreement expired nearly a year ago and NZRDA national president Dr Courtney Brown says after nearly a year of bargaining there are still significant claw backs for resident doctors.

“Whilst in 2018 most health workers gained improvements to terms and conditions of employment without facing claw backs, the DHBs have taken a distinctly different approach to resident doctors. It feels like they are punishing us for our successful safer hours campaign.”

NZRDA senior advocate David Munro says they entered negotiations last week with District Health Boards which were some of the least productive he’s seen in his 30 years as an industrial advocate.

“DHB’s were quite disrespectful of the resident doctors and the issues they are facing, so needless to say negotiations were unsuccessful.”

David says some doctors around the country chose to get out and picket, although there were no known sites in Nelson, but others were using the time for some much-needed rest time.

“Ironically the strike is about the long hours and the fact that DHB’s haven’t been recruiting enough doctors to cover that work time.

“Many RMO’s are using this time to rest and recuperate and spend time with family and friends.”

A Nelson Marlborough Health spokesperson said last week that they did not know how many RMO’s would be participating in the strike, but contingency plans were being put in place to minimise disruption to the public during the planned strike.

“Nelson Marlborough Health employs 96 RMOs; not all are NZRDA members – around 82 per cent are union members (Either of NZRDA or STONZ).”

The strike will end at 7am Thursday but NMH say people should not delay seeking medical treatment if they need urgent medical assistance.