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Anaesthetic technicians at Southland Hospital commenced a strike at 7am yesterday, ending at 4pm today, Friday January 11.

This strike follows the industrial action in October last year, in an attempt to settle their collective agreement.

Key among the claims in dispute is the requirement for Southern DHB to employ one new anaesthetic technician trainee each year at Southland Hospital to ensure adequate staffing levels for the future. Currently Southland Hospital has just six anaesthetic technicians, too few to run a safe service for both the staff and the public they serve.

“We are asking for a minimum of 9 FTEs on the roster to allow for adequate sleep after on-call and call-back duties,” said Dr Deborah Powell, National Secretary for APEX, the specialist allied scientific and technical staff union.

“This strike is also about ensuring safe healthcare for Southlanders. It is a common occurrence for instance that paediatric MRIs and dental surgeries have to be cancelled because of insufficient anaesthetic technician resources.”

The anaesthetic technicians are also striking over recognition of clinical responsibility by providing additional remuneration for technicians who become specialists in areas such as cardiac support, obstetric emergencies, anaesthesia during paediatric MRIs, organ donation and transplant, workplace education, and difficult intubations (for maintaining airways).

“This strike is, fundamentally, about protecting the future of this profession,” says Powell. “Inadequate staffing levels, insufficient trainees and poor provisions for recognition and development have resulted a perfect storm: the sustainability of this profession is now seriously at risk in New Zealand.”

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