Years ago I was the victim in a bloody chainsaw accident of my own foolish doing.

Tiring and wearing only gumboots I managed for those sins to slice my left foot open to the bone.

In the ensuing hours the nurses at Hawke's Bay Hospital exhibited outstanding professionalism — a mix of empathy, laughter and clinical skill of the highest order.

So when they rattled their sabres for a better deal and were subsequently offered a whopping 9 per cent, I was chuffed; a decent sum and a well-fought fight, I thought — until they voted to snub it. Baffling.


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Hawke's Bay Hospital cuts services during nurses strike

Given it was generous and given the union recommended members accept, the decision to reject it was, and is, churlish.

Nurses, as far as I'm aware, haven't sworn the Hippocratic Oath. But there is of course an implicit duty of care.

What's disturbing is that this obligation is ostensibly being used as a bargaining chip, that is, "we're striking to protect patients".

For a vocation based on compassion this is paradoxical.

Most of us agreed nurses deserved a lift — they were instead offered a windfall and still turned up their noses.

I'll hasten to add not all nurses are striking, just those in the union bound by the "majority" collective quorum, among which there's obviously a degree of dissent.

I'll also hasten to add "life-preserving services" are in place, whereby nurses are available for critical duties. Doubtless these are mitigating factors.

But try telling that to the patients whose "non-essential" surgeries were canned (an estimated 6000 to 8000 procedures nationwide) due to a protest that has no appreciable prospect of changing a thing.

If underscoring nursing's value is the aim, rest assured it was never in question. The irony is that this is the very virtue striking has imperilled. If the dust settles we can only hope it hasn't turned public sentiment.

Those who today left their non-striking colleagues to tend to the ailing should realise while the value we place on them is priceless, no one can measure compassion — let alone monetise it.