New Zealand’s public health authority hopes to avert unprecedented strike action by senior doctors and dentists in hospitals across the country next month, saying negotiations over a pay dispute are ongoing.
(Bloomberg) — New Zealand’s public health authority hopes to avert unprecedented strike action by senior doctors and dentists in hospitals across the country next month, saying negotiations over a pay dispute are ongoing.
“Myself and my colleagues are making sure that we do everything that we can to avoid this disruption to patients,” Andrew Slater, chief people officer at Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand, said Tuesday in Wellington. “We think we’ve put a fair offer on the table” and look forward to “continuing negotiations,” he told Radio New Zealand.
The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists said on Monday that more than 80% of its members had voted in favor of three strikes in September because the pay offer was less than the rate of inflation for a third straight year. The standoff comes at a time when New Zealand’s health system is under pressure, with an estimated shortfall of 1,700 senior doctors.
“Doctors care about their patients but have decided failure to protect the value of their work will only result in more doctors leaving New Zealand or declining to apply for jobs here,” Sarah Dalton, ASMS Executive Director, said in a statement. “We must stop the downward spiral of our doctors’ salaries to protect patients’ right to access healthcare in a timely manner.”
New Zealand’s annual rate of inflation peaked at 7.3% last year and is currently at 6%. Slater said Te Whatu Ora’s pay offer represented an increase of about 5-6%.
Strikes are planned to take place for two-to-four hours on Sept. 5, 13 and 21 — just weeks before a general election on Oct. 14.
Slater said that if they proceed they won’t affect patient safety because Te Whatu Ora has contingency plans in place.
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