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John MacDonald: Here's the real reason for today's health strike

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Tue, 5 Sep 2023, 12:26PM
Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

John MacDonald: Here's the real reason for today's health strike

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Tue, 5 Sep 2023, 12:26PM

Do you know what the real reason is for today’s big health strike? The real reason why thousands of senior doctors and dentists at hospitals around the country are walking off the job for two hours?

According to them, they’re striking because their pay hasn't kept up with inflation and so they’re going backwards; and they say if the pay doesn't improve, the hospital system will go downhill further because doctors and dentists won’t want to come here from overseas to work.

And, like you get whenever there’s industrial action, you’ve got their employer, Te Whatu Ora, saying that it’s put a very good offer on the table. It’s also managed to drop-in there along the line that some of these people are already earning good already.

But, as far as I’m concerned, the real reason is you and me. And I’m not saying here that they’re doing it for us. I’m saying that they’re doing it because of us.

Not because we deserve better. But because we have allowed things in the hospital system to slip.

You hear people saying all the time that they went to hospital, they got exactly what they needed on the treatment front, the nursing staff were fantastic, blah blah blah.

I went to see someone recently who had had heart surgery at Christchurch Hospital and he and his wife were raving about the place. Great treatment. Great doctors. Great nurses.

So, if you hear that often enough from people you know, you’re going to think it’s all sweet as, aren’t you?

Or maybe you’re going to subscribe to that classic kiwi approach of assuming there’s always someone worse-off than you and so, because of that, you’re not going to complain. Not going to kick up a fuss. Grin and bare it. Take one for the team.

But all that grinning and bearing it, is why we have this unprecedented strike action happening. Thousands of senior doctors and dentists walking off the job because there’s someone always worse off than us. Because of us just assuming that the hospital’s always going to be there. That the doctors and nurses are always going to be there.

Us just assuming that they’re getting the funding they should be getting. And, when we see or hear a story in the news about some poor sod who went to hospital and had a bad experience, we feel bad about it for a few minutes and just move on.

And what do we move on to? We move on and get all excited about things that politicians tell us to be outraged about. We get outraged about ram raids and gang members and ankle bracelets. All that stuff.

And we leave the outrage over the health system and the hospital system to the last people who should have that on their shoulders.

We leave it to the women with cancer to turn up at Parliament with their head scarves on to try and get better drug funding.

We leave it to the people who don’t get the hospital treatment when they should, to go public with their stories to try and change things.

And today, we’re leaving it to the thousands of senior doctors and dentists protesting outside hospitals all around the country.

They’re not doing it for them. They’re not doing it for us. They’re doing it because of us. Because we have settled for second-best for too long because “there’s always someone worse off than us”. Because we’ve grinned and bared it for years. We’ve taken one for the team for years. And look where that’s got us.

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