"I'm leaving. I'm done. It is unsafe."

Those are the words of one nurse who has been pushed to her limits. And like many others around the country, she was out on the pavement; a placard in one hand and a loud speaker in the other, demanding safer staffing.

The surgical nurse, who wished to remain anonymous, has been registered for the past four years and said "bullying is rife" as a result of the conditions and pay.

"We are so burnt out, it is just horrible."

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So she plans to move overseas next year because the pay and working conditions are better.

For the past 24 hours; from 7am yesterday until 7am this morning, members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) took strike action, after rejecting the district health boards' revised pay offer of 9 per cent for all member nurses by August 2019.

Nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants covered by the NZNO's collective agreement originally issued a strike notice for 24 hours starting 7am on July 5 but it did not go ahead.

Chants and supporting toots from passersby could be heard all around the grounds of Hawke's Bay Hospital and surrounding streets yesterday.

Hawke's Bay DHB New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) lead delegate, Tarryn Worsley talks to Hawke's Bay Today reporter Astrid Austin

Hawke's Bay DHB NZNO lead delegate Tarryn Worsley said their ultimate goal is to ensure a better health system for everybody.

Nurses had a lot of responsibility and they deserved better staffing and resourcing to provide quality care for patients, she said.

Hawke's Bay DHB New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) lead delegate Tarryn Worsley. Photo / Paul Taylor
Hawke's Bay DHB New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) lead delegate Tarryn Worsley. Photo / Paul Taylor

Carol, who did not wish to give her last name, has been a registered nurse since 1989 and believes the situation "couldn't be worse than it already is".

"Nurses primarily have been underfunded for a long period of time. We want safe staffing on the wards, and we want to ensure that the patients get better care with qualified nurses who can look after them to the standard that they expect."

Hawke's Bay nurses take strike action.

She said for a nurse, striking was not something they felt "morally comfortable" with.

"It is a very hard decision but we have been pushed to a point where we have had to take this level of action."

Carol, like many others was on-call last night, despite striking all day yesterday.

"A lot of people are going the extra mile to make sure we get this message out to the general public."

Similarly, Mike Connolly, who has been a registered nurse for 30 years, 20 in New Zealand, said the pressure on nurses never stops.

"It's now not just about the money. It's a bigger picture issue - the staffing, under-resourcing and about the state of the health system which has been seriously undermined by the government.

Nurses voiced their concerns outside Hawke's Bay Hospital. Photo / Paul Taylor
Nurses voiced their concerns outside Hawke's Bay Hospital. Photo / Paul Taylor

"What I'm seeing day in and day out over the past 20 years or so is more and more work being put on nurses on the wards and in the community."

Connolly often works through his lunch breaks and works overtime.

Having worked as a registered nurse in both England and New Zealand, Maureen Lynch said she had better working conditions, particularly safety-wise, overseas than she does now.

"Experienced nurses are going to Australia or they are coming out of nursing altogether because they are just spent."