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Hospital specialists under increasing pressure

4 February 2019

Hospital specialists under increasing pressure due to under-estimated strength of strikes

“Health bosses have under-estimated both the level of support for the ongoing strikes by resident (junior) doctors and the impact on hospital specialists who are shouldering heavy workloads as a result,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

Resident medical officers (RMOs) who belong to the Resident Doctors Association (RDA) have walked off the job twice over stalled negotiations on a new collective employment agreement, and plan to strike again for 48 hours from 12 February. Members are also being balloted on a potential fourth strike.

Mr Powell says the strikes have energised the RMO workforce, with doctors concerned by the DHBs’ strategy in the negotiations to roll back on earlier gains over safer working hours and to undermine the effectiveness of their union. Instead RDA membership has increased.

Senior doctors, meanwhile, are challenging the message from health bosses that hospitals are coping well during the strikes. “The reality is somewhat different for people on the clinical front line,” he says.

“Our members are telling us that they are under intense and increasing pressure as they shoulder heavier workloads during strikes caused by the DHBs’ failure to reach an agreement. Specialists are tired and frustrated, and they’re already seeing the effects on patient care and waiting times.”

A hospital specialist who is also a clinical leader and who did not wish to be named says:

“I have done nothing else for the whole of January other than contingency planning and begging favours. No quality improvement work, no winter planning, no RMO education.

“DHBs implying it’s business as usual is – at best – particularly disingenuous and also a slap in the face to those who are actually shouldering a heavy and increasing burden, while the ‘masters of industry’ sit in their offices making their battle plans.”

Mr Powell says other senior doctors have also communicated their frustration to ASMS with the DHBs’ lack of progress to settle the dispute.

“They are really under the pump to do more work and it’s obviously very frustrating and concerning for patients if clinics or surgery lists are cancelled or pushed back. DHBs need to urgently resolve this entirely avoidable situation.”


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