The New Zealand Aged Care Association is calling on the Government to urgently address a staffing shortage "crisis" after a record number of empty jobs nationwide.
NZACA chief executive Simon Wallace said every day members were ringing and emailing him about more nurses lost to District Health Boards because of the pay gap.
"We'd already hit a record 10 per cent vacancies in August with 500 out of nearly 5000 registered nursing positions empty. That has accelerated and is simply not sustainable."
Wallace said what was a trickle of nurses leaving in anticipation of the better conditions being negotiated under the DHB Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA) for registered nurses, has turned into a torrent since the settlement in August.
The NZACA was in discussion with the DHBs and Ministry of Health to find a solution but Wallace said it was a crisis that needed addressing now.
"They have responded to the teacher shortages in our schools by committing to recruit up to 900 teachers from overseas.
"Why aren't we seeing Government respond in the same way and bring in hundreds of registered nurses from overseas to ease the desperate shortages in our aged residential care facilities?"
Wallace said annual turnover of nurses had risen from 26 per cent in February last year to nearly 38 per cent as of August this year and had likely worsened since then.
"There is no relief. Nurses are critical to delivering safe and quality care for our older citizens in residential care.
"Ultimately, it is our older people in aged residential care who will be impacted. The potential closure of specialist units as well as whole facilities will put pressure on the DHBs. Where else will these residents go?"
NZACA was also lobbying Government and Immigration NZ to return registered age care nurses to the Long-Term Shortage Skills List after they were cut off the list in 2016.