ERA’s cool head needed to break impasse in long-running RDA-DHB dispute
The senior doctors’ union is urging the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) to help sort out the long-running industrial dispute between resident (junior) doctors and their district health boards (DHBs).
“This toxic and acrimonious dispute needs to end so we can all just focus on the task of treating patients,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).
He was commenting on the Resident Doctors’ Association’s application to the ERA for facilitation (non-binding arbitration) in its protracted and escalating collective agreement dispute with the country’s 20 DHBs. That application is to be heard on Thursday and, if the ERA accepts it, facilitation is scheduled to occur next Monday 15 April.
Mr Powell welcomed the RDA’s application but wished that the DHBs would also support it.
“The ERA’s cool head is really needed as this point. These acrimonious negotiations are creating long-term damage to working relationships. We want doctors-in-training, many of whom become the next generation of hospital specialists, to see DHBs as employers of choice. Instead they’re at risk of developing a negative, even contemptuous view of DHBs as places to work.
“Many new doctors will have attractive employment options overseas, and it would be a disaster if they ended up being lured away when they’re needed so badly here in New Zealand. We already have specialist shortages of around 20%, and any reduction in the supply of new specialists would risk compromising patient care.”
He says senior doctors have struggled to cope with the extra workload and stress generated by the long-running dispute. They are already suffering from a 50% burnout rate and the prospect of this dispute continuing is untenable.
“They’re desperate to see this dispute resolved because the pressure on them is immense. We’re very concerned about the consequences for their health and wellbeing. On top of existing serious specialist shortages and high levels of burnout, this continuing conflict is just making that situation even more unsustainable.”