DHBs telling porkies about junior doctors’ strike

Written By: - Date published: 3:00 pm, October 19th, 2016 - 44 comments
Categories: health, health and safety, workers' rights - Tags: , , ,

District Health Boards seem to be playing fast and loose with the truth, and junior doctors have had enough – even though some have been threatened with professional consequences for taking industrial action.

From Facebook (anonymised to protect the doctors involved):

We are striking to improve our rosters which will reduce our hours per week, which will cause a pay cut per doctor.

In order to maintain rosters, the DHBs will have to employ more doctors. So overall, their staffing budget will go up, despite the marginal cost of each doctor going down.

As far as I can tell, that’s why they’re opposing this.

Note how we’re not even striking about the unpaid overtime we all do. Given that we commonly work 5+ hours unpaid extra per week, one could argue that the DHBs are underpaying us by about 10k per year, but y’know, if there’s stuff to be done, and everyone’s busy, it’s a bit hard just to drop your stethoscope and walk out in the middle of making sure a patient is fine.

It’s also hard to look at greener pastures, when you’ve trained for 9 years to do one job in one industry, and the DHBs act as a sole employer, so collective action is literally our only recourse when we’re being told to work ridiculous hours.

Another writes:

Junior doctors are striking because the offer made from the DHBs did not include a clear or guaranteed time frame for any changes to be made to make rosters safer. It also insisted on removing the provision saying we couldn’t work back to back weekends.

In the end the NZ health system runs on a foundation of goodwill. It is not robust enough in it’s structuring to provide the service it does without the unpaid efforts of nurses, junior doctors, senior doctors and many others beyond the hours they are rostered on to or paid for.

From the perspective of a group of people already working extra out of goodwill, for the CEOs to push for pay cuts and for them to fail to seriously consider or plan for patient safety gives us the impression they lack respect for the people they work with and the patients they are supposedly working for.

Here’s the actual pay scale for resident doctors:


That “average 100k for first year doctors” salary the DHBs keep talking about? Applies when someone’s working more than 65 hours a week.

This strike is about safety. Do you want to be treated by a doctor in the fourteenth hour of their shift after twelve days with no break?

[Edited second-to-last paragraph because DHB spin is even worse than initially stated.]

44 comments on “DHBs telling porkies about junior doctors’ strike”

  1. The New Student 1

    Putting aside the overwork factor, Is that all they get paid? Unbelievable.

    • tc 1.1

      Yup we educate, train and qualify them for overseas better paid roles where they can pay off their debt quicker.

      They get targetted once qualified as we produce top class docs.

      Same old same old until we stop this race to the bottom which has gathered pace under national.

    • dukeofurl 1.2

      Junior doctors are allowed to ‘sleep on the job’- there is nothing wrong with that as do fireman.

      So how many hours in a night shift would they be ‘on call’ but stay on the ward or ER ?

      • the truth 1.2.1

        10pm until 8am

      • Katie 1.2.2

        I am a junior doctor and when you are on-call on a long day or overnight you are exceptionality lucky to get any sleep at all. When we carry the pager for ward issues, we can get up to 100 pages on long shifts, ranging from charting medication, to managing serious medical emergencies, to witnessing and certifying the deaths of our patients. At times we can have dozens of tasks at the same time that we need to address. On weekends we can do that back to back on a Sat/Sun for 14-15 hours (days 6 and 7 of 12) before starting again on Monday morning at 7:30 am to finish a further 5 days.

        • Venezia

          I totally support this strike action, having spent many hours with my mother in hospital when she was usually admitted through A & E, then to Acute assessment ward, then to general ward, often through the night. It is junior doctors who are the workhorses of our hospital system. They deserve better than the ridiculous rosters they are expected to accept. Totally unfair work hours, and very unsafe for patients. All power to them.

        • Wensleydale

          It’s interesting that at my place of work, working a shift longer than 11 hours is not permitted due to safety concerns. And yet junior doctors are expected to break their backs for 14-15 hours in a profession where lives are literally in the balance. Not only is this unfair and dangerous, it’s wholly unethical.

          Despite the DHBs attempting to portray the doctors as whining, disruptive babies prone to throwing their toys out of the cot when they don’t get what they want, this strike action is not only completely justified, it’s probably well past due. If this continues, exhausted staff will eventually make potentially fatal errors, and should this eventuate I’m reasonably sure the DHBs will absolve themselves of all culpability.

      • Maran 1.2.3

        Not really allowed to sleep. The contract does not mention sleep anywhere. All of us do have a quick nap if time permits. 2 hours a night be be extraordinarily lucky.

    • Marple 1.3

      The junior doctors are generally happy to do the unpaid overtime and work for low hourly rates as 1. they’ve trained for 6 years (8 or more if you’re a graduate) before they see a single cent so it’s not as if they’ll just retrain for another career 2. they are passionate about their job 3. they know there’s very little chance of unemployment and the pay gets better.

      DOI ex-junior Dr who went on strike in 1991 for a similar cause.

  2. Siobhan 2

    Jonathan Coleman should tell us, does he have Private Health care…or does he stand by his work as Minister of the Public Health System??

    • dukeofurl 2.1

      A pointless comparison. I go to a GP, which is private healthcare, but the government pays some of the cost.
      NZ healthcare is very limited to non acute care, ie pre-arranged. They wont pay for anything that the public system can do right away and not a waiting list. Plus any medication and lab tests are still paid publically

  3. dv 3

    That is a pay rate of about $30-40 per hr.

    Compared to
    Electricians -Electrician Auckland Cost. Electrician’s hourly charge out rates vary between $50.00 and $95.00 per hour + gst (in Auckland). Apprentice electricians are around $25 to $50 per hour

    Plumber I got charged $75 for my last job.

  4. Little Kiwi 4

    Good on them for striking. Doctors of all people understand that people aren’t machines and need breaks to function properly. Bit of a worry that as soon as they are non junior doctors many go overseas for better working conditions. This was true for a really great specialist I met here who recommended I also leave for better medical care overseas. I have had quite a few mistakes made on me but I found the private system was not as well regulated or monitored so the “mistakes” there were serious and I paid for them with more than money. This leads me to believe we would be doomed if we lost our public health system to privatisation. I hope the young doctors get a more humane roster.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      This leads me to believe we would be doomed if we lost our public health system to privatisation.

      Just look to the US where the health system costs about twice as much per capita, doesn’t reach everyone and even the people who do have insurance don’t always get the coverage that they need.

      The US is a great example of how privatisation simply doesn’t work.

  5. Lanthanide 5

    I still haven’t seen any rebuttal of the claim by the DHBs that doctors still want to be paid for 12 days even though they only work 10. In other words they want to keep their same salaries while doing less work.

    Is it a true claim?

    This post doesn’t address it, so I’m starting to think that the DHBs aren’t lying.

    • McFlock 5.1

      RDA seem to think it’s bull.

      But then who knows wtf dunnokeyo had in his brain when he said it. You can’t punch fog.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      This post doesn’t address it,

      Yes it does:

      We are striking to improve our rosters which will reduce our hours per week, which will cause a pay cut per doctor.

      In order to maintain rosters, the DHBs will have to employ more doctors. So overall, their staffing budget will go up, despite the marginal cost of each doctor going down.

      So, yeah, the DHBs were lying about that as well.

    • JuniorDoc 5.3

      If you look at the pay scale, junior doctors are paid a salary based on the average number of hours worked per week. If we work less days in a week we get less pay. We just don’t want the pay categories to change. We currently do not get any penal rates (more money) for working unsociable hours like evenings or weekends. Most other jobs do get penal rates. The only penal rates we do get are when we work nights – we get paid at 1.8x the normal rate. All this is currently included in our salaries. The DHBs want to remove those penal rates so that we are all taking a pay cut.

      The DHBs are also failing to mention that they are insisting on removing a clause in the current contract that requires 2/3rds of employees to agree to changes in a job description. They want to be able to change our job descriptions without any consultation with us, which means they could effectively change our jobs to whatever they wanted – they could, for example, say that a select few doctors will now only work nights, or will look after three times as many patients. We want to stop them doing that – it seems pretty essential.

      • Lanthanide 5.3.1

        How come none of this is in the media? Why is the doctors union doing such a bad job of getting their side of the story across?

        • Draco T Bastard

          Why don’t you ask the MSM?

          It is, after all, their job to get all the facts to report them.

  6. This sort of shabby shit treatment is across the board now in New Zealand.

    The last security company I worked for was similar. I negotiated Wednesday nights off for family reasons, and was promised every second weekend off . The rosters changed as several officers left in disgust and we were two officers down.

    What that translated into was 4 of us not having a weekend off for 10 months. Until we started going ballistic at the supervisors. ( there were two new supervisors who refused to work nights and weekends at all – after edging out all the old staff and then bringing in their old workers from another company to replace them .)

    Joining a union was an instant sackable offence.

    Because of this sort of disorganization , the contracts suffered ( as the newbies didn’t know the patrol runs – there were burglaries and all manner of incidents) and as a result , we had one old hand supervisor who turned up at 0700 to complete what would have been a 24 hour shift. Without a break or time for sleep . And that was after a 12 hour shift doing patrols on the public roads.

    And this govt had the audacity to talk about …. ‘worm farms’ .

    Had that officer have had an accident due to exhaustion which involved injury or death on the motorways all hell would have broken lose and that company would have been done in the courts – not least for contravening NZ ‘s labour laws.

    We had an incident where a patroller was told not to bother with an adjacent property – yet which was subsequently burgled. And so the security company deflected the losses onto the patrolling officer to the tune of around several grand.

    And there were literally dozens more incidents of various displays of company greed incompetence and worker abuse during the time I was there.

    There was no overtime rates, just the minimum hourly rate for hours worked.

    Now, the qualifications I have would enable me to work as a security supervisor, however, – in no way shape or form does that even compare with the hours of study and difficulty the medical student must embark on to become a medical professional.

    But I will say one thing : the caliber of officers I worked with were ex police ( one serving in a peace keeping role in Serbia with the UN ) ex military who saw active service -and death up close ,… many of whom were South Africans , with several combat instructors among them and several special service , and no – they were not racists by any chalk and only had good to say about the coloreds and black police and military staff they worked with as co workers. We had a Major who served in the Indian Army fighting the Tamils…again ,…seeing death up close. We had several ex NZ Army junior officers who both served in Afghanistan back in the time of Helen Clarks term as PM.

    Top caliber people. And they were all treated like expendable flunkies who just walked in off the street.

    Such is the complete arrogance and enabled abuse by neo liberal New Zealand of its own workers and essential service people.

    And so full support to the Junior Doctors . I can get an idea of just what sort of bullshit they are up against.

  7. Bryan 7

    What the DHBs do not tell the public is that – the need to employ and effectively use the increased numbers of doctors graduating from our two medical schools means that the real costs of implementing safe rosters and adequate rest days is not the $60M claimed by them and their surrogates. In fact they did in the very recent past work hard in association with the RDA to ensure that the first apparent group of this needed and planned for increase in doctors were meaningfully employed across our DHBs.
    They do not have a cogent argument to the reality of tired and unsafe doctors and so they trot out BS and spin.

    • dukeofurl 7.1

      The DHBs employ foreign graduates as it is, preference for NZ graduates isnt a problem if the numbers increase.
      The Registrar training pool doesnt need to increase, as some specialities like heart disease require far fewer numbers, need more going into general practice as it is.

  8. Whispering Kate 8

    This problem has been going on for many years. I have a daughter who was admitted one evening with a grumbling appendix 31 years ago at the age of 9 years at AK hospital. The Registrar who was attending her had her admitted for the night and said he would look in on her intermittently during the night. He subsequently saw her approx every 2 hours or so. I commented how did he manage to carry on as he was absolutely exhausted. It worried me as he said he would have to operate on her if her condition worsened and he was clearly very tired. He said he was wakened often so that he was sure he could see her and examine her. Fortunately for us her condition improved and we didn’t have a dead on his feet young surgeon removing her appendix.

    OSH should be looking in on these work conditions and I wonder why they haven’t done it many years ago. I agree their pay is disgusting. No wonder so many go offshore. This Government does not appreciate our skilled employees in the Public Service and just wants to run everything into the ground. Young newly graduated doctors not only have to put up with huge student loans, they are then insulted with pay rates which are not commensurate with their skills.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.1

      This Government does not appreciate our skilled employees in the Public Service and just wants to run everything into the ground.

      Actually running and maintaining a decent society costs and that eats into profits and thus this government won’t maintain that good society.

      • Nic the NZer 8.1.1

        This is simply not true. Maintaining a healthy society is cheaper in the long run. It might appear financially cheaper in the very short run if the subsequent problems can be handed off to the next government.

        We are still paying the long term costs of inequality caused during the last 3 and a bit decades. The repair costs of this folly are substantial.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Can’t see how what you say detracts from what I said.

          Maintaining a healthy society is cheaper but it still costs and National will cut those costs so that profits for the rich go up.

          It will destroy our society over the long run but that’s what you get under National.

  9. Gangnam Style 9

    Rayban Kan (jokingly) echoes Dr Wayne “Here’s what I want to know. Why has it taken til 2016, for medical science to decide sleep is important? If this week, doctors are striking about not-enough-sleep, what will they be whining about next week? More bacon? Chocolate?
    If sleep is such a big deal, why didn’t doctors need it in the past? Furthermore, if sleep is really beneficial, why doesn’t Pfizer sell it in a tablet?
    Without wishing to turn my own experience into data, I sleep an enormous amount. And trust me, it hasn’t turned me into a doctor at all.”


    • JuniorDoc 9.1

      We have been trying to get our rosters sorted for many years but have faced incredible resistance from DHBs. Enough is enough.

      • Red 9.1.1

        Why did you accept last contract if so bad

        • Macro

          You obviously have never had to accept anything less than what you wanted.
          Lucky ol you!

        • JuniorDoc

          At our last contract negotiations the DHBs wanted to take away our pay, our meals, and our basic workers rights (among other things). We eventually settled on the same contract as we had before just to avoid strikes. Now that we are finally demanding safer hours they are hitting back with those same demands we rejected before.

    • gsays 9.2

      Sounds like staff at a mates cafe.

      They ordered more view.
      “Customers love the view.”

  10. save nz 10

    Good on the junior doctors for striking. It is hard to know why these ridiculous hours and conditions have been tolerated so long. All I can think of, is that doctors need to be selfless to work in that role and so are open to being taken advantage of.

    Yep, we used to have much worse conditions for workers in the 19th century, but we threw that out to modernise the workforce. Now it is time to do the same with medicine.

    In my view the doctors have not gone far enough in their strikes for better working conditions!

    BTW $56k for a 1st year doctor does not seem very high to me for 40 hours work and 7-9 years of study and student loans.

  11. Maama 11

    When union membership was made voluntary back in the 80’s the Neo liberals knew that it would not be long before all workers would be eating out of the hands of the employers. Starting with the low income earners, and now right through to the professionals. This is not the NZ that I worked in during the 60’s through to the 90’s. But I have seen a gradual break down in working conditions, and now we see doctors having to strike to get reasonable working hours – shame on the DHB’s.

    • dukeofurl 11.1

      I can assure you that strikes and general disputes over wages and conditions have occurred long before the current era, even when you had what you call ‘compulsory unionism’
      While I personally sympathise with the ‘junior doctors’ these are not a hard done by group by any means and all will go onto extremely well paid careers.

      From what I can see the Australians who kept the ‘award system’ have seen that become essential to maintain the wages and conditions of the most vulnerable workers- not to say that system hasnt been undermined in some cases.

  12. mosa 12

    Drivers of motorcars are encouraged to take a rest and not to drive when fatigued in case the driver causes a fatal accident.
    Why should doctors be any different.

    The DHB should be liable for encouraging this dangerous practice, after all most of us go in to hospital for operations and treatment with the expectation of coming back out when its over.

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