The striking clinical perfusionists are one of 24 outstanding single employer collective agreements being negotiated between APEX (a union representing allied, scientific and technical health staff) and district health boards across the country.

Dr Deborah Powell, APEX national secretary, said for much of the year DHBs had been fully focused on the NZNO nurses negotiations resulting in a whole lot of other pay talks backing up behind – including the about 20 ADHB perfusionists whose agreement expired in February. The cardiac surgery team members – who support the national heart transplant service – have given notice of strike action for two periods of two hours on September 25.

Perfusionists are trained experts in cardiopulmonary bypass techniques and are responsible for operating the heart-lung bypass machine that provides blood circulation and oxygenation for patients undergoing cardiac surgery.

Powell said despite being in negotiations for seven months the DHB has not made an offer to settle the collective agreement.

She said the APEX members were seeking annual salary increases of 3 per cent (the same as given under the NZNO DHB nurses agreement) plus additional leave and remuneration for the  large amount of time they spend on call having to be within 20 minutes of the hospital so available for emergency surgery and heart transplant procedures.

An Auckland DHB spokesperson said APEX has agreed to attend mediation on September 17  and the DHB was focused on finding a way to settle the negotiations without disrupting cardiac services at Starship and Auckland City Hospitals – including the national transplant service.

Powell said although industrial action by the perfusionists would be “disruptive” life preserving services would continue to be provided.

“The perfusionists are simply asking the DHB to make a realistic offer to settle this collective agreement addressing the concerns of our members around cost of living and onerous on call duty,” said Powell.

The DHB said contingency planning was underway to protect patient safety if it was not successful in avoiding industrial action.

“Patient safety is our priority, and we are working with the union to develop a life preserving services (LPS) plan that includes emergency surgeries, organ transplants, and those seriously ill adult and child inpatients who urgently need cardiac surgery,” said the spokesperson.

Powell said APEX had in total 50 collective agreements and had also begun negotiations for a national DHB collective agreement for its medical physicist members whose current agreement expired recently. She is also national secretary of the Resident Doctors Association which is currently negotiating a new national MECA for resident medical officers (junior doctors) whose agreement also expired in February.

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