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Do Junior Doctors Really Want to Prevent a Strike?

Media Statement

Embargoed Until 1.30pm, Sunday 11 June, 2006

Do Junior Doctors Really Want to Prevent a Strike?

More than 10 thousand people will have elective surgery and outpatient clinics postponed or deferred because of the threatened strike by junior doctors this week.

Junior doctors or Resident Medical Officers (RMOs) plan to strike for five days from 0700 on Thursday 15 June, to 0700 on Tuesday 20 June.

The Advocate on behalf of the country’s 21 DHBs, Dr Nigel Murray – Interim CEO of Southland District Health Board – says hospitals will be providing emergency and acute services during the strike but thousands of people scheduled for elective surgery and outpatient clinics will be affected.

“The tragedy of this strike is that the proposal we put to the RMOs and their union is designed to break the cycle of confrontation and threat of action we see every time we get to the negotiating table,” says Dr Murray. “This is not the way to solve the problems we face as health professionals – we do not want adversity.”

“We have offered RMOs a process to find ways of reducing working hours, improving training and working conditions – and ultimately the treatment of patient. To dismiss our proposal as ‘just another committee’ must leave people wondering what RMOs want.”

Tomorrow, advertisements will appear in daily newspapers all over the country explaining what DHBs have offered. “Industrial action is normally a last resort when negotiations fail – it shouldn’t be a response to a proposal aimed at finding new and better ways of working. The people affected by the strike will be able to make up their own minds.”

“The doctors union has said publicly that New Zealand is a world leader in reducing doctors’ working hours – RMOs work an average of 55-58 hours a week – but that’s not mentioned in the stories of long hours and extreme tiredness. Yes, doctors do work long hours sometimes, but that is the exception – not the rule.

“DHBs told RMOs during pay talks and we’ll repeat in public and again in the talks tomorrow –

1. We cannot and will not change anything in their current MECA without their agreement

2. We want to improve working conditions for junior doctors, and work with them and other relevant groups to find the solutions in the current environment of workforce shortages.

“That is not a reason to strike and we deeply regret the disruption it will cause the medical treatment of thousands.”


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