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Solidarity with junior doctors

Written By: - Date published: 4:00 pm, October 10th, 2016 - 36 comments
Categories: health, health and safety, Unions - Tags: , , ,

Junior doctors are planning strike action as they fight for safer rosters:

Junior doctors who voted to go on strike say they have no choice, because the exhaustion caused by long working hours is putting patient safety at risk.

And they’re facing bullying and threats because of it:

The Medical Council says junior doctors in several DHBs have been told their decision to strike will affect their career prospects.

Council chair Andrew Connolly has written to all DHBs, saying while the council has not received any formal complaints, he has been told a growing number of junior doctors in several DHBs are concerned their decision to strike will affect their career progression.

“A number of our younger colleagues have said, ‘look, this sort of comments going around in our department or in our hospital, you know I just feel a bit uncomfortable’. In the letter I pointed out one RMO had been told they wouldn’t obtain full registration if they went on strike.”

Mr Connolly said such comment was grossly incorrect, unhelpful and unacceptable.


These are classic strike-breaking tactics, trying to intimidate workers into not making a fuss – even when their current working hours could endanger people’s lives.

36 comments on “Solidarity with junior doctors ”

  1. McFlock 1

    Not sure what else the union and doctors are doing, but I’d suggest the union filing hazard notifications with health and safety as well every time a patient or doctor is endangered by a fatigued doctor.

    It’s unacceptable for a doctor to be more impaired by fatigue early on a Sunday morning than their patient is from alcohol they had on saturday night.

    As for the DHBs that are intimidating doctors, you reap what you sow. DHBs need the juniors more than juniors need DHBs – we already have massive flight overseas because of loans, low pay and conditions.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1



      Still, it is the government that is forcing the low pay and poor conditions.

    • AmaKiwi 1.2

      @ McFlock

      40% of GP’s are retiring in the next 9 years, so making threats against junior doctors is both stupid and a vacuous threat. But then no one ever accused this government of intelligent planning.

  2. Keith 2

    How can any person let alone a so called manager support such terrible rosters?

    Do those who think Doctors must work such inhuman hours work lead by working themselves? And even if they did and of course they don’t, some pencil pushers mistake won’t cost a life.

    Do they think that someone on the tail end of a 12 hour shift much less a 15 hour is going to be any use to anyone?

    If a mistake occurred and I bet they have, linked to fatigue that endangered a patients life, then the managers should be criminally and financially held accountable, no ACC, just plain old see you in court suing and jail time. I think about then the idiots who put such, lazy, dangerous rosters in place would never do so.

    Can anyone name these faceless bureaucrats who threaten medical staff?

    • Cinny 2.1

      So well said Keith

    • Draco T Bastard 2.2

      How can any person let alone a so called manager support such terrible rosters?

      NZ managers are simply the worst in the developed world. Too busy cutting costs to realise how much damage that they’re doing.

      As for the other people who support these inhumane practices that endanger lives and will eventually kill, yeah, they need to be held to account as well. $200,000 fine should do it. If a life is lost because of these practices then a murder charge and life in prison.

  3. Macro 3

    This is the inevitable result of constant funding cuts by Central Government on all our Public Services in order to fund obscene tax cuts for the elite .
    Mental Health is also now in a parlous state and the horrific deaths over the past week in the Waikato can be sheeted directly home to a service underfunded by this sick National crowd of vandals.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      This is the inevitable result of constant funding cuts by Central Government on all our Public Services in order to fund obscene tax cuts for the elite .


      We need a law that prevents medical staff from working more than 32 hours per week unless under emergency conditions. Do that and we’ll start to get a good idea of exactly how many medical staff we need. Obviously, ATM, we simply don’t have enough.

  4. Corokia 4

    Last week the DHB’S spokesperson dismissed the claims that Junior doctors had fallen asleep driving and /or made mistakes at work because such incidents hadn’t been reported to them. IF a doctor realised they had made a mistake, but the patient wasn’t too badly affected ( ie no one else noticed) does anyone think they’d self report the incident? Same goes for driving errors, if they don’t actually have a crash they’re hardly likely to tell the DHB about it.

    • This is always a major impediment to good health and safety at work: if people think the consequences of reporting risks or near-misses will be punitive or ineffective, they won’t report. There has to be a lot of trust and integrity for the system to work.

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    These are classic strike-breaking tactics, trying to intimidate workers into not making a fuss – even when their current working hours could endanger people’s lives.

    Thing is, when this over-work of our young doctors does cause a death it will be the doctors that are blamed rather than the psychopaths forcing them to work excessive hours.

    • AmaKiwi 5.1

      Our best hope is that the medical mistake happens to a Natz cabinet member’s family.

      • tc 5.1.1

        Hell no ! Further privatisation and more savage cuts would follow as they would use that as ‘evidence’ the public system is broken even though they broke it.

        They are effectively sociopaths feathering their nests not bothered about the impacts.

  6. Henry Filth 6

    From the RNZ link, quoting Julie Patterson, a spokesperson for the DHBs:

    “The issue that we’ve got as DHBs is the union is expecting that when the junior doctors have days off during the week either side of that weekend, that they will continue to get paid for the days that they have off.”

    I’m curious as to where the weekend is, in a twelve day roster.

    This is a safety issue. Twelve days straight, mixing day and night shifts, with fifteen hour days thrown in?

    It’s a health and safety issue.

    • AmaKiwi 6.1

      @ Henry Filth

      “Health and safety” is not in the lexicon of those who worship at the alter of “profit and loss.”

    • Draco T Bastard 6.2

      “The issue that we’ve got as DHBs is the union is expecting that when the junior doctors have days off during the week either side of that weekend, that they will continue to get paid for the days that they have off.”

      That sentence bugs me because it makes no sense whatsoever.

      Aren’t doctors on a salary and so they get paid the same amount no matter if they work or not?

      If they are on wages then they would expect to get paid for the days that they work and not for the days that they don’t work unless they call in sick on a day that they were rostered on.

      Seems to me from that sentence that this ‘person’ is expecting the doctors to work 24/7 and not get paid any more than the standard 40 hour week.

      • Bob 6.2.1

        “Aren’t doctors on a salary and so they get paid the same amount no matter if they work or not?”
        Yes, but they are currently working such ridiculous hours that (my understanding is) the only way to rectify the hours is to reduce the salary’s to increase the staff numbers.
        i.e. they are currently working ~115hrs a fortnight, if they dropped back to ~95hrs a fortnight (as I believe is proposed) they would effectively be paid an extra two 10 hour shifts a fortnight that they haven’t worked, if their salary wasn’t adjusted. If they don’t adjust the salaries there is no budget to cover the additional headcount required to cover the drop in hours.

        The only easy way out of this is additional funding for additional doctors, which seems like a no-brainer to me, but I am not in charge of the budget…

        • Draco T Bastard

          I suppose it depends upon the agreement. A salary is usually based around a 40 hour week which means that any time above that is actually unpaid. But some agreements have it so that excessive hours above the 40 hours are paid at an hourly rate.

          Obviously, the doctors shouldn’t be taking a pay cut.

          And, yeah, this government has been consistently underfunding pretty much all government services ever since it got into power all so that they could post surpluses after cutting taxes for the rich.

          • david

            Salary has been paid on hours expected to work. Taking into account long hours.
            Usually, categories of:
            40-44 hr week
            45-50, 50-55, 55-60hr/week for example takes into account higher overtime rates.

            I used to work these hours, which was better than those who went before us. There wasn’t a weekly or fortnight hourly cap previously.

            The union wants better pay and conditions. Which is a reasonable demand.

            We shouldn’t get the impression that the hours are getting worse, we just need to improve from the past.

            I used to do night shifts 75hrs per week. Then straight back to day hours with a couple of days off. I think now, it’s a maximum of five nights in a row and not 7 days.

            One used to do a normal dayshift (8-9hrs) and because someone called in sick for the nightshift, you were told to go home and do the night shift 10.5 hrs with little to no sleep in 24 hrs. Those calling in sick for nightshifts weren’t very popular.

            Long days, once or twice a week was usually 15 hrs, then start the next day after a short sleep.

            I can’t say the long days were necessarily dangerous. Lets not alarm people. It depends on the workload. Too much work over 8 hours is more dangerous than 15 hr days that is well staffed and well supervised. I remember North Shore Hospital in early 2000s where the ‘normal’ day was 12 hrs not the 8-9 hrs, chronically under staffed and super dangerous. I had colleagues named in the NZ herald for deaths which weren’t their fault… like their patients, collateral damage. Thankfully those days have gone.

            We need to improve conditions gradually over time.

            Threats of career damage for striking is BS, they said the same thing when we striked a decade ago. Actually some consultants look forward to it, they have in their contract, super high hourly rates for covering strikes. It’s good that other unions are supporting us now. Back then, Helen Kelly was more interested in supporting her Labour party mates.

            • Draco T Bastard

              I used to do night shifts 75hrs per week. Then straight back to day hours with a couple of days off. I think now, it’s a maximum of five nights in a row and not 7 days.

              As reported:
              Dr Richard Chen told Checkpoint he was currently working 12 days straight, with two 15-hours shifts in the middle – roughly 115 hours of medical care between “weekends”.

              So, no, the maximum that you mentioned doesn’t apply.

              We need to improve conditions gradually over time.

              No, we need to improve them immediately to prevent the deaths that such over work will cause.

              • David

                The fortnighly maximum when i was working was 144hrs.
                The weekly was 72 hrs. The 7 day nights breached those hours, so later they got you to leave 30 mins early to get around it.

              • David

                Nice sentiments. But going to a 40 hr week immediately means shutting down hospitals overnight. Unfortunately people need treatment 24 hrs a day.

            • Richard McGrath

              I worked at Hutt Hospital in the late 80s, regularly did 73 hour weeks which included 15 hour days when on duty at weekends. It was a great time despite that, as many friendships were forged, and practical skills learnt which were so valuable later on.

              • David

                Rose tinted glasses,
                ‘Back in my day’ kind of stuff.

                Most people didn’t like the hours then.

  7. DH 7

    I’ve never been able to understand the attitude behind these long hours. It smacks of incredible arrogance and is gratifying to see the junior doctors at least admitting there’s a serious problem.

    It’s interesting comparing doctors rosters with other professions that also involve the risks of fatigue. One doctor reported;

    “Dr Richard Chen told Checkpoint he was currently working 12 days straight, with two 15-hours shifts in the middle – roughly 115 hours of medical care between “weekends”.”

    Look at the rules on truck drivers;

    “In any cumulative work day, you can work a maximum of 13 hours and then you must take a continuous break of at least 10 hours (as well as the standard half-hour breaks every 5½ hours).

    A cumulative work day is a period during which work occurs, and that does not exceed 24 hours and begins after a continuous period of rest time of at least 10 hours.

    You can accumulate a total of 70 hours work time (known as a ‘cumulative work period’) before having to take a continuous break of at least 24 hours.”

    There seems to be an attitude that because they’re ‘doctors’ they don’t suffer from fatigue or tiredness like the rest of us mere mortals. It’s a recipe for mistakes IMO.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.1

      Mistakes? It’s a recipe for disaster.

      Firstly it’s going to cause medical mistakes which could cause anything up to and including death and secondly it’s going to put people off becoming doctors in the first place.

      • tc 7.1.1

        Maybe shonky has an aspirstional target for us to catch america where medical errors are the 3rd largest cause of death behind heart and cancer illness.

    • RedLogix 7.2

      And as a consequence medical professionals generally suffer from drug addictions, depression, mental illnesses, family breakdowns and early death at very high rates.

      These absurd hours are wrong at every level.

  8. Tim 8

    As a reasonably senior junior doctor I’d just like to say thank you for all of your support so far. I guess we’ll see where things end up during and after the strike. I view this as just a continuation of the struggle our union has been going through for many many years (and had already made huge improvements in safety and hours by doing so)… Here’s hoping we don’t fuck it up!

    • Incognito 8.1


      Would you agree that this is not the usual employee vs. employer disagreement about working conditions, etc? Is perhaps some of the resistance coming from the profession itself and are you therefore fighting the enemy within?

      All the best with your struggle!

  9. KJT 9

    Not just Doctors.

    “Under the Manila Amendments to the STCW Convention, all persons who are assigned duty as officer in charge of a watch or as a rating forming part of a watch and those whose duties involve designated safety, prevention of pollution and security duties shall be provided with a rest period of not less than:

    1. a minimum of 10 hours of rest in any 24-hour period; and
    2. 77 hours in any 7-day period.

    The hours of rest may be divided into no more than two periods, one of which shall be at least 6 hours in length, and the intervals between consecutive periods of rest shall not exceed 14 hours.

    At the same time, in order to ensure a continued safe operation of ships in exceptional conditions, the Conference unanimously agreed to allow certain exceptions from the above requirements for the rest periods.

    Under the exception clause, parties may allow exceptions from the required hours of rest provided that the rest period is not less than 70 hours in any 7 day period and on certain conditions, namely:

    1. such exceptional arrangements shall not be extended for more than two consecutive weeks;
    2. the intervals between two periods of exceptions shall not be less than twice the duration of the exception;
    3. the hours of rest may be divided into no more than three periods, one of which shall be at least 6 hours and none of the other two periods shall be less than one hour in length;
    4. the intervals between consecutive periods of rest shall not exceed 14 hours; and
    5. exceptions shall not extend beyond two 24-hour periods in any 7-day period”.

    In other words, ships crews, including New Zealand ones, can legally work 91 hours per week. Continuously. And 98 for up to two weeks. With uninterrupted sleep periods of not less than six! hours.

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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
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