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DHB warns 24/7 service under threat

By Emily Norman

[email protected]

Wairarapa Hospital would struggle to deliver a 24/7 service if latest union demands were met, a Wairarapa senior medical professional said.

Wairarapa junior doctors began a three-day strike this morning in solidarity with the New Zealand Resident Doctors Association’s campaign for “safer working hours”.

“If the union’s latest demands were met, as they currently stand, Wairarapa DHB would have to seriously consider its health service delivery in a 24/7 environment,” Wairarapa DHB chief medical officer Tom Gibson said yesterday.

It was “hard to comprehend why the strike is continuing when DHBs have already agreed and addressed the key issues of the debate”, he added.

It is the second time that members of the New Zealand Resident Doctors Association had taken strike action in the past year.

At the end of last year, DHBs around New Zealand agreed to reduce the number of consecutive night and day shifts that junior doctors could be rostered on.

But the union is now demanding that the days off, which result from these changes, must be linked to weekend days off.

DHB chief executive Adri Isbister said her main priority and focus throughout the strike would be the Wairarapa community, and ensuring the quality of health services.

“Being a small DHB we can become vulnerable – even being just a few staff down can put pressure on services, and rostering is a complex issue,” she said.

“Not all of what the union is demanding appears to be feasible, however we have rightly met all health and safety concerns.”

She said she was “hugely grateful” for senior medical staff, nurses, allied health teams, ambulance staff and general practices who were “once again stepping up to support service delivery and ensure our community and patients are well looked after through this period”.

Julie Patterson, lead CEO for the DHBs’ employment relations programme, has labelled union demands a lifestyle preference.

The Whanganui DHB CEO said demands for “lifestyle rosters” would significantly affect the quality and timeliness of services to the public.

“Hospitals provide services 24 hours a day, seven days a week and, as we all know, people don’t get sick only between 8am and 5.30pm Monday to Friday.”

She said the union needed to serve the health needs of New Zealanders — not just the “pay and lifestyle interests” pursued by the union.

The Wairarapa Times-Age contacted the New Zealand Resident Doctors Association for comment but had not received a response at time of publication.

The strike began at 7am today and continues for 73 hours at all but two of the country’s DHBs, Taranaki and West Coast.

The emergency department (ED) at Wairarapa Hospital will remain open throughout the strike, but the public is urged to remember that the ED is for emergencies only.

“People with non-urgent injuries or illnesses will experience longer waiting times and should visit their GP in the first instance,” a DHB spokesperson said.

“Anyone unsure about whether they need ED care should contact their GP or call Healthline (0800 611 116) for free advice from a registered nurse.”


Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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