New Zealand's hospitals are facing another round of disruption when junior doctors strike work over their pay dispute for the second time in a fortnight on Wednesday morning.
About 2800 trainee doctors who are members of the Resident Doctors' Association will walk off the job at 7am for 49 hours. † Wanganui Hospital services will be affected as a call is being made asking the government to intervene into the wage negotiations between the junior doctors and the country's district health boards that is at a stalemate.
New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) said on Tuesday that the intervention of the Minister of Health could help resolve the dispute.
Peter Foley, NZMA chairman, said that the situation was alarming as it threatened to continue with no end in sight
"This is causing major problems for our patients, who are, in many cases, not getting care when they need it, but also for doctors and other health practitioners throughout the health system as they struggle to cope with the effects of the strike."
Dr Foley also observed that it was "starkly clear" the environment between the district health boards (DHB) and doctors was "highly confrontational and not producing a solution."
Wanganui's mayor, Michael Laws said it was "simply unacceptable" that Wanganui residents were made to suffer for the second time in a fortnight because of the strike.
Though Mr. Laws sympathized with the junior doctors' claims, he said, "The pigheadedness shown by both the DHBs and the RDA condemns them both".
"They don't give a stuff about everyone that they are inconveniencing or placing at risk," Mr. Laws added. According to him the cost of the strike to the Wanganui district was such that "we could afford the junior doctors' claim - the cost both financially and socially makes the resolution affordable".
Meanwhile, hospitals in New Zealand report they are as ready as they will ever be for the next two days of staffing difficulties till the striking doctors resume work on Friday at 8am.
Hospitals anticipate a busier schedule than the last time with fuller general medical wards due to the onset of winter illnesses.
Most doctors have cancelled outpatient clinic visits and have postponed elective surgery until Friday morning.
According to Joel George, general manager at Wanganui Hospital, running the hospital throughout the strike involved a tremendous effort from senior doctors, nurses, other health professionals and all other staff† "to keep hospitals functioning with a focus on minimizing risk to patients, managing demand and using all available resources."
Meanwhile, the Resident Doctors Association, of which the striking junior doctors are members, is being accused of using the upcoming General Election to add pressure to increase the doctors' pay.
According to Employment law specialist Susan Hornsby-Geluk, the district health boards cannot afford to pay the 30% increase demanded by the union members and the union wants the government to step in to pay the shortfall.
Hornsby-Geluk says the government is in a tough spot with the issue†being pushed in the election year.