Elective surgeries and clinics scheduled across the country today have been deferred as 10,000 allied health workers walk off the job for 24 hours.
Today's strike comes after more than 18 months of negotiations between the parties for a new collective agreement, including work-to-rule plans where staff refused to work more than their contracted hours, and took all breaks they are entitled to.
Hospital workers under the "Allied Health" multi-employer agreement include laboratory and anaesthetic technicians, oral health therapists, alcohol and drug clinicians and sterile sciences technicians. They don't include doctors, nurses or midwives.
District Health Boards and the Public Service Association have agreed to retain life-preserving services for the duration of the industrial action.
PSA organiser Will Matthews said the industrial action was a last resort after DHBs failed to meet the workers' pay claim.
"This dispute is about getting a pay offer for allied health workers that not only shows them that they are valued parts of the health system, but also helps them keep track with the skyrocketing cost of living."
A Canterbury DHB spokesperson said many of its services would be affected by the strike and waiting times would be longer.
About 100 outpatient and 220 community appointments run by Allied Health staff have been cancelled.
"The 24-hour strike will generally affect the patient flow, in particular, some discharges back to the community where physio, social work, occupational therapy and dieticians are often involved," a DHB spokesperson said.
Only urgent laboratory tests will take place today for life-preserving criteria for critical patients.
Burwood Hospital elective operating theatres will be closed and five operating theatres will be open at Christchurch Hospital for life-preserving surgery.
Meanwhile, Auckland DHB said patient safety remained its priority and it would continue to provide emergency and life-preserving services.
Emergency departments will remain open.