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Doctor unions embrace common approach to issues

The two unions representing doctors in public hospitals have agreed on a common approach to addressing any problems arising from efforts to secure safer staffing rosters for resident (junior) doctors.

The senior doctors’ union, the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), and the union representing junior doctors, the New Zealand Resident Doctors’ Association, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

The MoU outlines a process to resolve unintended consequences arising from the implementation of Schedule 10 of the collective agreement for RDA members employed by district health boards.

ASMS Executive Director Ian Powell says the idea is to help both sets of doctors resolve issues within their workplace as much as possible, but with the ability to escalate concerns to a higher level if necessary.

DHBs had been invited to join the MoU but the unions were still waiting for a response.

“Hopefully they’ll see the sense and value of a shared approach to shared problems,” he says.

“The MoU shows how agreements can be reached on difficult matters in a non-adversarial way and without anyone having to cede hard-won employment protections. This agreement really underscores the importance of teamwork and collaboration, which everyone understands is essential in a health setting.”

As well as recognising that unintended consequences, largely around continuity of training, can arise from efforts to address RMO fatigue and achieve safer working hours, Mr Powell says the MoU also acknowledges the precarious state of the senior medical workforce as characterised by shortages, the burden of increased work, high levels of burnout and presenteeism, and a retention crisis.

A copy of the MoU is available at

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