The Auckland District Health Board halted hiring of all new staff for 48 hours because of a financial blowout - a move some have tied to health funding not keeping up with demand.
Internal DHB emails obtained by the Herald yesterday stipulated "all recruitment activities are frozen" because of unfavourable "financials".
The DHB has a total staff of more than 10,000 people, and hired about 150 people a month.
On Tuesday, the general manager of operations, Ngaire Buchanan, imposed a recruitment freeze, initially for 48 hours.
Senior doctors' union executive director Ian Powell and Labour Party health spokeswoman Maryan Street, a former district health board employment relations chief, both declared the recruitment freeze an unprecedented move and said they were deeply concerned.
Ms Street said the freeze gave credence to the newspaper report last month suggesting that Auckland DHB faced having to save $60 million.
"It must be linked to what the DHB is anticipating getting - or not getting - from the Budget at the end of May."
Chief executive Garry Smith said the recruitment "hold" ended yesterday. It was imposed "while we investigated the labour cost in the month-end result for February.
"The investigation identified 68 more employed and temporary staff than were budgeted for in February."
"Our recruitment process has been tightened to ensure we match our resource allocation to budget and we will actively manage this process."