Dispute heats up between Doctors and District Health Boards

By Taiha Molyneux

The dispute between the NZ Resident Doctors Association (NZRDA) and District Health Boards(DHBs)  is heating up as both parties accuse each other of causing a stall in negotiations over work hours.

The NZRDA says the DHB called an abrupt end to mediation earlier this week after the parties failed to reach a mutual resolution to all the issues outlined.

Dr Deborah Powell, National Secretary for the NZRDA issued a public statement calling on the DHB to urgently address the issue claiming further delays could put patients at risk.

Later in a statement issued by 20 District Health Boards, Julie Patterson CEO of Whanganui DHB accused the Union and Dr Powell of causing the delays by entering mediation with a “fixed view and closed mind in regard to reviewing the RMO rosters.”

Patterson went on to say DHBs have been “progressively addressing the issue in a way that builds on the quality services provided to patients,” she goes on to say, “By the Unions own admission the DHBs have thus far dealt with 80 of the 144 rosters where the Union has raised a concern.”

She also accused the union of “intransigence.”

Dr Deborah Powell has fired back in another statement saying, after the “vitrollic press release from the DHBs attempting to blame the union for wanting safer rosters, we have been left with no choice but to disclose more fully what transpired” in the meeting.

Powell says the DHB told the NZRDA that in order to address the issue on a national level the resident doctors may have to give up part of their yearly salary increases.

She says, “The DHBs offer to reduce the number of consecutive nights to 4 over the next two years was contingent on the doctors forgoing the first 1% cost of living adjustment to salaries.

"The DHBs position was an abdication of their responsibility to provide a safe workp[ace for the doctors and through them safer care for patients. If we have to pay to work safely, what comes next? Having to bring our own soap to work to wash our hands.?"

She also denied the claim that the union entered mediation with a fixed position.

According to Julie Patterson “The Unions contention that DHBs are refusing to address the hours doctor’s work is deliberately misleading.”

However Dr Powell says a survey conducted with Resident doctors proves how fatigued they are with some claiming they had been pulled over by police who thought they were drunk driving.

The survey also revealed over 1000 resident doctors were worried they had made a clinical error as a result of fatigue directly related to working long hours.

She says, “the residents have said enough is enough we cannot continue to work like this.”

At this stage the NZRDA says they are not expecting to hear back from the DHBs until the 23rd of this month.