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A long-standing New Zealand nurse says he's packing it in and moving to Australia where he will continue his profession while being paid $40,000 more every year.

His move comes at a time when around 27,000 nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants have voted to strike for two full days if their district health board (DHB) bosses don't present them with an acceptable pay offer today.

Jonathan Smith, an operating theatre nurse, says he's going one step further and jumping the ditch.


"For me personally I need at least an extra $40k [per annum] to stay in New Zealand which is what I'll be earning in Australia," Smith said.

The 36-year-old said he became a nurse because he wanted to make a difference and making a contribution to society was important to him.

But he never expected to witness some of the horrors that came from being so short-staffed that patients' lives were at risk.

"The worst moment of my career was when an emergency C-section came through the doors.

"There were no nurses available to perform this surgery. I left a patient on the operating table - mid surgery - to assist another surgeon - in another operating theatre - to get this baby out alive," Smith said.

He said thankfully the patient he left was stable but if there had been any complications it could have been a different story.

"Patients in New Zealand deserve better care than this. Patients are entitled to services of an appropriate standard," Smith said.

Smith's concerns have been echoed by nurses all around the country who were voting to strike for two days in July if the pay issue was not addressed.


Nurse delegate and long-standing midwife Sarah Gilbertson said nurses were fed up with working overtime and not getting meal breaks.

"This used to happen every now and then, but now it has become the norm ... the work nurses and midwives are doing is increasing because there's less of us and the work is becoming more complex ... yet we have seen no increase in pay."

Gilbertson said a booklet called In Their Own Words, featuring hundreds of stories of nurses impacted by under-funding in the health sector, has been presented to various MPs.

"One story features a nurse coming home from work having had only 15 minutes for lunch and had to work over-time and there was issues with patient safety," Gilbertson said.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) executive director, Ian Powell, has also come forward saying a number of DHBs had taken an increasingly narrow attitude towards their staff, including nurses.

"Rather than seeing them as an asset, they see them as a cheap liability and as a result it's not surprising nurses feel as undervalued as they do," Powell said.

DHB spokeswoman Helen Mason said DHBs had always acknowledged the issues raised and the DHBs' offer strongly reflects the Independent Panel's recommendations.

"Nurses, healthcare assistants and midwives are highly respected and essential members of the health team, our offer reflects that and provides a pathway to address their key pay equity and workload issues."

Powell said ASMS couldn't take a position on the matter but felt an "enormous amount of sympathy" towards nurses.

"Nurses are the biggest part of the health workforce. We need to look after them."