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Efforts To Avert Junior Doctors’ Strike Fail

15 June, 2006

Efforts To Avert Junior Doctors’ Strike Fail

Efforts to stop Junior Doctors walking off the job tomorrow have failed.

The Lead Negotiator for the country’s 21 DHBs, Dr Nigel Murray – Interim CEO of Southland District Health Board, says despite extending the talks for a day they’ve been unable to persuade the junior doctors to lift the action.

“After four days of talks this week we’ve gone backwards,” says Dr Murray

“It’s a sad day when people with a duty of care to save lives feel it’s necessary to hold thousands of patients to ransom. We have protected their existing agreement and their existing conditions and we have also offered a pay increase which for most first year trainees it will mean 3% on top of a starting package of $70,000 – their response is a nationwide strike.

“They publicly dismiss our offer as ‘just another committee’ to suggest we’re trying to stop change when the real culprit is their resistance to modernising the workforce.

“Junior doctors don’t work in isolation – they’re part of a team and we can’t do a deal with them without considering the impact on the senior doctors who train them and health professionals they work with. The tail can’t wag the dog.”

Dr Murray says junior doctors sometimes do work as much as 72 hours a week, but it’s a complete exaggeration to suggest that’s the norm. “Junior doctors and their union agree we lead the world in reducing hours although you’d never know from their publicity that the average is 55 to 58.”

“The hours they complain of are the exception, and yet they’re also the first item on our list of areas for improvement along with things such as training, rosters, health and safety and communication – hardly reasons to disrupt the treatment of thousands of New Zealanders.

“I’m happy to repeat publicly the same assurance we made to them in negotiations – we do not want to increase their hours or slash their conditions. Our proposal is for joint decision making, equal voting rights and they retain a veto over any suggestion they don’t like. If we want to improve their conditions, then we need to do things differently.

“Their rejection tells us junior doctors don’t want the responsibility of joint decision making, they’d rather use industrial muscle and the threat of industrial action as they have so often in our negotiations.”

Dr Murray says there is an international shortage of doctors which is worsening and demand on services is increasing, yet junior doctors ignore the need to change the way we deliver services if we are to meet that demand.

“Junior doctors have to ask themselves if they want to continue this cycle of conflict and disruption or take their place alongside senior doctors, nurses and other health professionals to help find answers to the problems we face as a sector.”


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