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Solution Urgently Required - NZMA

Wednesday, 16 January 2002

A solution must be found to the growing crisis emerging from the industrial dispute in Canterbury, says the New Zealand Medical Association.

"The Government, the District Health Board and the unions must resolve this before serious strike action takes place. All parties have a responsibility to avert the looming disaster, which will paralyse public hospitals and put patients' safety at risk," said NZMA Chairman Dr John Adams.

Doctors would not be able to effectively cover for striking nurses for eight days, he said.

Dr Adams said the Government is a party to the situation, because it funds the public health system, and cannot stand aside.

"Staff are the biggest resource in the health sector and the funding must be found for realistic wage settlements, if we are to retain staff.

"The Government must examine its priorities. It has already directed the DHBs to reduce their deficits, and built public expectations that health services will be improved and better quality systems introduced. All these things take money. If necessary, the Government should put new services on hold, so existing services and essential capabilities can receive new funding. The Government should take a lead in directing that some of its new money is put towards improving the pay and conditions for health professionals across the board."

Dr Adams said the situation in Canterbury was a barometer for what is happening in the entire public health system.

"Services and staff are stressed, morale is low, and health professionals know they will be paid more if they leave New Zealand. Health professionals in other centres will be looking to see what happens in Canterbury, as it could affect what happens in the rest of the country."


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