SERVICES at Whakatane Hospital are being reduced to a minimum, with only emergency and essential services being maintained, during a 48-hour strike by junior doctors from today.

The Bay of Plenty District Health Board’s contingency planning lead, Neil McKelvie, said services such as outpatient appointments and elective procedures that could be postponed were being rearranged.

“The industrial action means we will have a greatly reduced numbers of junior doctors on our wards,” he said. “Therefore, only emergency and essential services will be available at Tauranga and Whakatane hospitals for urgent medical care.”

Junior doctors are going on strike after talks between their union and District Health Boards failed last week. Almost 3000 junior doctors are expected to walk off the job countrywide.

The dispute is over working conditions, with moves by the health boards to return to a previous working regime that saw resident doctors working for 12-day stretches without a day off and to work for 16 hours without guarantee of rest of safety.

The Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA) said it wanted a renewed collective employment agreement after the last one expired nearly a year ago. The previous agreement cut the number of consecutive days doctors could work from 12 to 10.

However, in November last year a breakaway doctors’ union – Specialty Trainees of New Zealand agreed to a deal with DHBs to work 12 consecutive days if they wish.

Whakatane Hospital patients who have a scheduled surgery or outpatient’s appointment during the strike have been contacted and given details of what the changes mean for them, Mr McKelvie said. If people are unsure about their appointment, they should call 0800 333 477 between 7.30am and 6pm weekdays.

People are also being asked to save the hospital emergency department for emergencies only. Those requiring medical attention for a situation that is not life threatening are being asked to contact their GP or to ring the free HealthLine on 0800 611 116.

Contingency planning for the strike has been ongoing since the DHB received notice of the withdrawal of labour by junior doctors who are RDA members on New Year’s Eve.

“Our priority is ensuring we keep everyone safe – patients and staff alike. To this end, services at both Tauranga and Whakatane hospitals will be reduced to a minimum for the 48 hours from 7am [today].”

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation has come out in support of resident doctors’ call for safer working conditions.

Services that remain open

  • Emergency Departments
  • Assessment Planning Unit, APU (Tauranga)
  • Intensive Care Unit/CCU/HDU (Tauranga), Acute Care Unit (Whakatane)
  • All wards (Tauranga and Whakatane)
  • Maternity Units (Tauranga and Whakatane)
  • Special Care Baby Units (Tauranga and Whakatane)
  • Mental Health and Addiction Inpatients’ Wards
  • Public Health Services (Toi Te Ora)
  • Renal Dialysis Unit (Tauranga)
  • Clinical Physiology
  • Acute endoscopies
  • Imaging Departments
  • Outpatients rehabilitation (e.g. physiotherapy, occupational therapy, podiatry, etc)

kathy.forsyth@thebeacon.co.nz