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Striking Health Workers Putting New Zealand Health Care At Risk

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Access to public health services is being compromised by health professionals taking industrial action and is a matter which requires urgent public debate and review, says Professor Max Abbott, Dean of AUT University's Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences. This call comes at a time when medical laboratory workers and medical radiation technologists have fully withdrawn labour for 24 hour periods and there is also talk of potential industrial action by resident doctors, says Professor Abbott. "While it is a fundamental right to withdraw labour, it must be balanced against the wider public good and ethical principles that underlie health professional practice. In my view, insufficient weight is given to public safety and the professional injunction to abide by the medical profession's Hippocratic oath 'do no harm," he says. Nurses and most other professional groups have acted in a measured way, says Professor Abbott. "It is disappointing that a small number of healthcare professionals are behaving in ways that are undoubtedly having a negative impact on health service delivery and is placing some patients at real risk." Professor Abbott says that while there was provision to provide services in emergency situations, clinicians do not always appreciate the full extent of a situation, and making decisions without full access to laboratory tests, CT scans and other diagnostic tests must increase patient risk. "Cancelling surgery at short notice is at the very least stressful. For some, including people who have already faced long waits or are frail, it can be devastating." "Some form of compulsory arbitration might be preferable prior to industrial action being taken." Professor Abbott says it would be timely for government, the health professions, consumer groups and the wider community to openly debate the issues involved.

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