The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says the Hawke's Bay District Health Board's request for volunteers to assist during the nurses' strike is "agitating".
Last Friday the HBDHB called for volunteers after NZNO notified DHBs of the strike action its members would be taking on June 9 from 11am–7pm.
Nurses nationwide are striking after a DHB offer last month "would have given most members little more than 1.38 per cent" and because of the "horrific" and unsafe staffing conditions".
Since putting the call out, 59 people have put their names forward to volunteer, a DHB spokeswoman said.
NZNO industrial adviser David Wait said NZNO provides the DHB with assistance from its member nurses for life-preserving services during the strike to maintain patient safety.
"We're doing our bit essentially."
"Our members were a bit agitated, is the way I've heard them describe it, at the request [for volunteers].
"The concerns that they have are really around the use of unqualified people to provide care and the risk that brings to patients."
Wait said they are expecting that the tasks that will be done by volunteers are "incredibly basic" that people could do with minimal training but "that's not clear, it's not clear what it is [the DHB] is asking for".
"That's probably the bit that's agitating for us.
"We want people to be safe, we would expect them to be a bit clearer about what it was they are asking people to do."
Wait said in the case of a strike DHBs will often put out communication to people who they know will be patients at the time asking if they have family members who could come and support them.
"That's decent and human and a reasonable thing to do but this kind of request is overt, it's the most overt that we've seen and that agitation from our members comes also because it looks a little bit like 'we want to replace our nurses'".
Wait said there is a legislative process NZNO has to follow and after the strike notice is issued to DHBs, DHB's have to create a plan to ensure they can provide life-preserving services, which they need to do "as much as they can without the support of our members".
Requests are then made to NZNO for assistance in providing the life-preserving services while striking, he said.
"When the DHBs come to us with a request, one of the things that they're supposed to have done is tried to, as much as possible, reduce the need for our members to provide assistance.
He said during this planning is when there should have been the call for volunteers.
"Tasks like clearing the laundry bag, that could be done by someone coming off the street and we have members whose job it is to do that among other things, so we would expect that would've been factored in before the discussion about how many [NZNO members] were needed."
In Hawke's Bay about 1250 nurses will be striking and 155 NZNO members will provide life-preserving services on strike day.
The DHB spokeswoman said it had previously called for volunteers in 2018 during the NZNO member strike.
"At all times, patient safety is our top priority.
She said volunteers are trained in privacy and health and safety when working in clinical environments.
They are police vetted and non-clinical volunteers do not perform clinical duties but do things such as deliver meal trays, help patients open meals, fill up water jugs and assist patients and families to restrooms and washrooms.