David MacDonald is appalled he was left unattended for more than an hour on the floor of an Auckland hospital in such severe pain he could not get back on to the bed.

The 51-year-old from Glenfield had his appendix removed at North Shore Hospital last month after it became inflamed causing excruciating pain.

He had started vomiting at home and pain developed in his abdomen on the afternoon of June 25. By 5pm the pain had become so bad he went to the hospital's emergency care centre.

He repeatedly asked for pain relief but none was given at first. He was seen in a small room by a health worker who left, closing the door.

"I started yelling for someone to come and help, but the door was shut and there was no buzzer in the room," said Mr MacDonald, who is from Zimbabwe and became a New Zealand citizen about five years ago.

He eased himself on to the floor to crawl towards the door but a nurse entered the room.

He again asked for pain relief "as I could not bear the pain", but the nurse said he must be on the bed before she would provide painkillers.

The nurse told him she wasn't able to help him up on to the bed and, when Mr MacDonald explained he could barely move, she said she would call security. She left, closing the door.

Mr MacDonald reached for his jacket, fumbled with his cellphone and managed to call his brother for help at around 10pm.

"Just before he arrived, another nurse came in and said the floor was dirty. She helped me up to the bed and finally gave me a painkiller."

Mr MacDonald is uncertain how long he spent on the floor, because of the distress he was in, but estimates it was one to two hours.

He said the care provided to him by the nurse who left him on the floor was substandard and he was speaking out to prevent a repeat.

"Other people shouldn't have to go through what I went through, especially when they are sick and need help."

The emergency centre's clinical director, Dr Bhavani Peddinti, said the Waitemata District Health Board had received a complaint from Mr MacDonald and would carry out a thorough investigation. This might take up to 20 days.

"Providing high-quality patient care, delivered with compassion and respect, is one of our key priorities and we treat any complaints we receive very thoroughly."

The health board is part-way through a $50 million building programme to add ward beds, replace the emergency care centre and reconstitute an assessment and diagnostic unit.

This is intended to avoid overcrowding that reached its worst in winter 2007 and has continued sporadically since. Waitemata is the worst-performing DHB at 74 per cent on the Government's target that 95 per cent of emergency patients be admitted to a ward, discharged or transferred within six hours.