Second junior doctors’ strike underway

By Talisa Kupenga

The second 48-hour long junior doctors’ strike in a month is underway and a third is on the cards.  More than 3,000 junior doctors arranged the strike, with many walking off the job to protest better work conditions.

Straight off the job and onto the picket line, many of Wellington's junior doctors have had enough.

Rakaipaaka descendant and Wellington Hospital house officer Dr Paige Simpson says, "The DHBs are angling to extend out the days that we work and in the past we've come to the conclusion that that's really unsafe, we get really tired."

NZ Resident Doctors Association (RDA) spokesman and Wellington Hospital ED House officer Dr Will Blackburne says, "A couple of years ago we striked to work safer hours to produce better care for our patients and not have to run the risk of having severely fatigued doctors providing care in our public hospitals- now we're fighting to keep those rights."

It's the second strike in a fortnight.   Changes proposed by DHBs to the way junior doctors are rostered remains a key issue and failed mediation talks have further delayed progress between the groups.

Simpson says, "You can't have your best practice, you can't have your tikanga without being alert and well-rested to be the best doctor that you can for your people."

Blackburne says, "We're worried that these clawbacks will ultimately lead to a reduction in those protections that allow us to deliver safe care."

Jude Douglas was also outside Wellington Hospital to support her son.

Douglas says, "I think the junior doctors have a really bad deal and I think they worked really hard to negotiate their way last time.

“I don’t think doctors are treated well here, I know in the UK junior doctors have fought really hard but they’ve actually been listened to."

Te Rangimarie Henare’s partner is being treated for leukemia and when it comes to his treatment she wants the doctors at their best.

"I reckon [they need] a break here and there. They do a pretty awesome job looking after my partner.”

Shan Apanui’s father has cancer and says he sees doctors “slaving away”.

“They're always busy.  Nobody can provide the best care if they're overworked."

Wellington's Capital and Coast DHB told Te Kāea it respects and acknowledges NZRDA members' right to strike and that patient well-being remains their highest priority and focus.

It also says the emergency department (ED) at Wellington Regional Hospital will remain open during the strike, but has asked people to remember that ED is for emergencies only.

A third strike has been confirmed by the RDA and is scheduled for February 12 to 14.