Pay parity and hiring more staff were the message more than 150 rallying health professionals relayed to the Northland District Health Board.

Two rallies organised by the New Zealand Nursing Organisation were held outside Whangarei Hospital yesterday and attended by more than 100 nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants.

Similar rallies are being held throughout the country as NZNO is calling for better funding of public healthcare after its contract negotiations with DHBs broke down.

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Julie Governor, NZNO organiser for Northland, said members who started work in the afternoon yesterday joined the first rally at 10am while those who finished work at 3.30pm participated in the afternoon rally.

Banners, flyers, chants and singing formed part of the rally. Ms Governor said the NZNO members had huge public support with cars tooting their horns when the rallies were on.

A couple of nurses from the Dargaville Hospital were at the morning rally while those working in the Bay of Islands and Kaitaia hospitals would hand out leaflets to members of the public rather than organise rallies.

"Pay equity is our first call to the government. Workers in similar professions like MRT radiographers with the same qualification and three-year degrees are paid three to 5 per cent more than what nurses are paid,'' Ms Governor said.

"The other issue is hiring of more staff. At the moment, nurses are not only working through their morning and afternoon tea but also picking up extra shifts over their contracted hours because the demand is higher which is causing fatigue."

Ms Governor said there simply was not enough staff in the wards to meet the care required. NZNO has about 1200 members in Northland.

The rally is not part of the NZNO's industrial action plan which will be balloted in the coming weeks.

NZNO wants a pay rise of more than 2 per cent in the revised collective agreement it is negotiating with the Ministry of Health.

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The Government's offer for 27,000 nurses, hospital aides, and core midwives is a 2 per cent pay rise and a $1050 lump sum payment.

NZNO said the public health system has stretched nurses, midwives and health assistants to breaking points. It said the system was sick after a decade of severe underfunding.