By Emily Norman

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A three-day junior doctors’ strike will begin next week, but the Wairarapa District Health Board is planning “business as usual” for most patients.

It is the third strike declaration by the junior doctors’ union in a matter of months over what they say are dangerously excessive work hours — the second strike, however, was cancelled at the last minute due to the severe earthquakes in November.

The strike notice was issued by New Zealand Resident Doctors’ Association (NZRDA) national secretary Dr Deborah Powell on December 30.

Next week’s strike will begin at 7am on Tuesday, and will involve about a dozen Wairarapa junior doctors.

Wairarapa Chief Medical Officer Tom Gibson said the DHB hoped to minimise the impact on patients “and this time we will be keeping most services active throughout the strike period, more so than last time”.

“While we are working without the [junior doctors] over the strike period, it will be a big help to us if people can keep the emergency department free for emergencies only,” he said.

“It is normal practice for people to see their GP first, unless it is an emergency situation.

“We are not asking for anything out of the ordinary but a special reminder while staffing is tight can’t go amiss.”

Four Wairarapa patients have had surgeries rescheduled as a result of the strike, but well over 100 patients had surgery and general appointments rescheduled last time.

Dr Gibson said the previous strike declarations had “caused a lot of work and energy to be diverted from the normal business of the hospital”.

“Unfortunately, this has had inevitable impacts on patients,” he said.

“DHBs have not walked away from negotiations.

“It would be a great outcome to have this resolved without the need for strike action, but it is a complicated process.

“I am just extremely pleased that we have been able to structure a contingency plan that maintains patient safety and has minimal impact on the people of Wairarapa.

While negotiations are ongoing between district health boards and the union, contingency planning by the New Zealand Resident Doctors’ Association, is well underway at 18 of New Zealand’s 20 DHBs.

Taranaki and West Coast DHB doctors voted not to strike.