Junior doctors on the picket line. Photo: RNZ / Joanna MacKenzie

By Radio New Zealand

Early estimates are that more than 2000 elective and other procedures have not happened this week because of the junior doctors strike.

Members of the Resident Doctors Association are into their second day of a five-day strike over their expired employment agreement.

In Parliament today, Health Minister David Clark was asked about the impact the strike was having on patients.

He said hospitals are had reported no unexpected issues and people were still turning up for work.

“Approximately 38 percent of house officers and 72 percent of registrars have made themselves available for work this week.”

“And DHBs are advising the public that if they need to attend hospital for accute or emergency medical treatment they should do so,” he said.

While precise figures wouldn’t be known for some time, Dr Clark said he had been given an early indication of how many procedures had been deferred.

“I am advised that preliminary planning estimates are that 1513 elective procedures and 776 other procedures, such as elective angiography have been deffered.”

“People are missing out on planned care as a result of the strike and that’s why I’m urging both DHBs and the RDA to make the most of facilitation to find a resolution urgently,” he said.

But members of the Resident Doctors Association on a picket line in Auckland Ciy hospital today said it was time the minister stepped in.

Dr Maple Goh, a first year doctor at Middlemore Hospital said Dr Clark’s response to the RDA picketing his office yesterday was a huge let down.

“He put up a really disappointing poster that he was disappointed with the doctors which is huge hypocracy considering that we’re disappointed with him because he hasn’t stepped in at all.”

“And it should be within his power to make the DHBs sort this out, we’ve been trying to sort this out for 12 months now and it’s just appaling that David Clark has been sitting on his hands,” she said.

Vice President of the RDA Dr Kathryn Foster agrees and said the Government got involved in other contract disputes, like the nurses, so it  should get involved in the doctors dispute.

She said the strike was important because the doctors don’t want hospital chief executives to have the final say over working arrangements.

“The problem with the CEOs having the final say is we’re a vulnerable population, we’re dependent on the DHBs for our training and our capacity to ba able to lerm and work.”

“If we let the DHBs have final say, we have no recourse over changes that maybe damaging to our lives and training and our lives outside of the hospital. we can’t then go to a different employer, we’re a captive audience,” she said.

Part of the issue lied with a lack of trust between the doctors and the dhbs, which Dr Foster said had been gradually eroded over a long time.

“We’ve had many years of systematic erosion of trust and it comes from our side from the DHBs saying one thing and doing another.”

“And that’s why the protection of our union is so iportant and we’re so deperate to hold on it because we can’t trust the DHBs,” she said,

The DHB’s spokesperson Dr Peter Bramley has said the strike is “unreasonable and unnecessary” because faciliation talks are due to start next week on 9 May.

This article is republished under Kaniva’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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