Ros­ter­ing a big is­sue for strik­ing ju­nior doc­tors

The Dominion Post - - News - Kata­rina Wil­liams kata­rina.wil­[email protected]

Ju­nior doc­tors are walk­ing off the wards to pre­serve a num­ber of pro­tec­tions they say are un­der threat.

The doc­tors, known as res­i­dent med­i­cal of­fi­cers (RMOs), will em­bark on the first of two 48-hour strikes from 7am to­day as ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween district health boards and the largest ju­nior doc­tors’ union, the New Zealand Res­i­dent Doc­tors’ As­so­ci­a­tion (RDA), fal­ter.

As a re­sult, scores of nonessen­tial ap­point­ments, pro­ce­dures and clin­ics have been post­poned across the coun­try; how­ever, life-pre­serv­ing care and emer­gency treat­ment will not be af­fected.

Hutt Hos­pi­tal se­nior house of­fi­cer Dr Will Black­burne said that while the de­ci­sion to strike was not taken lightly, doc­tors felt they had to draw a line in the sand. ‘‘We are still work­ing 10 days in a row with at least a cou­ple of 16-hour days within that 10-day pe­riod and that’s what we agreed to as a safer al­ter­na­tive to the pre­vi­ous ros­ter­ing sys­tem.

‘‘The DHBs still aren’t very happy with that. They would pre­fer us to go back to work­ing 12 days in a row but we think it’s cer­tainly safer for us and for our pa­tients to work in the cur­rent sys­tem.’’

DHB spokesman Dr Peter Bram­ley said the cur­rent ros­ter­ing sys­tem did not of­fer flex­i­bil­ity and the ‘‘one-size-fit­sall’’ ap­proach adopted in 2016 did not suit all hos­pi­tals.

It had cre­ated a num­ber of ‘‘un­in­tended con­se­quences’’, in­clud­ing staffing dif­fi­cul­ties and chal­lenges in max­imis­ing RMO train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

‘‘DHBs are ab­so­lutely com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that all of our em­ploy­ees have safe work­ing con­di­tions and our pri­mary com­mit­ment to our pub­lic is that we de­liver safe care.

‘‘Many of the RMOs are want­ing the change be­cause it brings greater flex­i­bil­ity at other parts of their four or six-week ros­ter to ac­tu­ally strengthen train­ing and give greater pe­ri­ods of rest.’’

The hag­gling over the mul­ti­em­ployer col­lec­tive agree­ment (Meca) be­gan when the last agree­ment ex­pired last Fe­bru­ary.

Pay, work­ing and train­ing con­di­tions have also been chewed over dur­ing the stalled ne­go­ti­a­tions.

For Bram­ley, Nel­son Marl­bor­ough Health chief ex­ec­u­tive, Fri­day’s news a sec­ond strike would take place came as more of a dis­ap­point­ment than a sur­prise.

How­ever, he un­der­scored the DHBs’ in­ten­tion to re­turn to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble. ‘‘We would be very keen to do so. We’ve put a num­ber of vari­a­tions around the is­sues which we’d love them to con­sider.’’

While it was ‘‘im­pos­si­ble to know’’ ex­actly how many doc­tors would strike, Black­burne es­ti­mated be­tween 350 and 400 doc­tors from the Welling­ton re­gion would be in­volved.

Na­tion­ally, the num­bers ranged from about 2000 to as many as 3200 doc­tors.

The in­dus­trial ac­tion has forced all DHBs to es­tab­lish con­tin­gency plans, with se­nior med­i­cal staff be­ing called on to help.

‘‘We think it’s cer­tainly safer for us and for our pa­tients to work in the cur­rent sys­tem.’’

Dr Will Black­burne

KEVIN STENT/STUFF

Dr Will Black­burne, of Hutt Hos­pi­tal, will be among scores of ju­nior doc­tors tak­ing strike ac­tion start­ing this morn­ing.

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