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Problems must be solved

By Don Farmer

[email protected]

Being expected to work a 15-hour day and/or working 12 days in a row is not on in any workplace unless perhaps it is a one-off created through exceptional circumstances.

It is even less acceptable when those working under those conditions are doctors, but that is apparently what is happening throughout the country and more specifically here in Wairarapa.

The long hours and cruel rosters have been fingered as reasons behind a planned New Zealand Resident Doctors Association (NZDRA) 48-hour strike scheduled for later this month.

If the claims are to be believed then it is near impossible not to have empathy with the doctors planning to down tools and fight their cause.

The hours would be punishing in any trade or profession but cannot be condoned in an area where people’s health and well-being rely on having an alert doctor not prone to making mistakes through sheer tiredness.

Mistakes that, taking it to the extreme, could even threaten life.

Courtney Brown, a doctor who has worked at Wairarapa Hospital, summed it up this week when she said it is harder for doctors to give the necessary time – and maintain patience with – people in their care when they are battling the effects of long hours and endless days.

Wairarapa DHB is working to put contingency plans in place for the time of the planned strike to ensure patient safety and has warned the DHB may have to look at rescheduling “non-urgent surgery and appointments”.

While that is sensible under the circumstances it is obviously no long-term solution to anything.

The problem here, and elsewhere, needs to be solved and hopefully the strike, which is to start at 7am on October 18 and last until 7am on October 20, can be avoided and a fair deal for all concerned arrived at.

As a last word it always intrigues me to hear health professionals referring to “non-urgent surgery and appointments” that invariably get mentioned when strike action is in the air.

That may well be a description used by the health professionals but I doubt any patient who is preparing for surgery, or who has made an appointment to see a doctor believes their case in be “non-urgent”.

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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