The current workload facing hospitals is higher than it's ever been before at a time when the workforce is more short-staffed than it's ever been.
This is according to the President of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners Dr Samantha Murton, who tells the Front Page podcast that the health sector is currently being hit on two fronts by the rising wave in cases.
The growing prevalence of Covid-19 in the community means that health workers are now at risk of infection whether they are at work or at home with their families and friends.
Every health worker that becomes infected and has to stay home heaps a little more pressure on those who are still available to provide care for patients.
Estimates suggest that New Zealand is short around 4000 nurses, but the problem is that we are competing for those skills with the rest of the world.
"The problem is that globally we have the same crisis everywhere," says Murton.
"Many places are now increasing their number of medical students. They're also trying to get nurses to come in, and training them up. There are novel ways that people are trying to increase their workforce."
Murton says that New Zealand needs at least 1000 nurses urgently just to "level the playing field" and take some of the pressure off hospital staff.
Murton isn't drawn into a discussion on the semantics of whether we should be calling this a health crisis – phrasing the Government has thus far avoided. She's far more interested in what can and should be done to alleviate the strain on the health system.
"Whether you say it's a crisis or not, you still have to come up with a solution and plan for what you are going to do to make a difference," she says.
She says that leaders need to be careful in their use of language to ensure they address the issues at hand while also managing the public's uncertainty and concerns.
"If you become alarmist as a leader, it does make it difficult for people to feel confident that the issue is going to get fixed. It's a real balancing act between the words that you use and the actions that you take. It's important that actions speak louder than words."
Murton would like to see progress on the immigration policies to ensure New Zealand gets more staff in and also that those who arrive have a fast track to residency.
"We need to increase the number of nursing staff and make sure there's a focus on getting more workers into primary care community areas. All those actions are the most important."
Murton would also like to see longer-term commitments within New Zealand dedicated to encouraging more young people to pursue a career in healthcare.
None of this is easy, but plans need to be put in place now to prepare the country for future waves of illness.
Asked whether New Zealand had blown its two-year head start on Covid-19, Murton says it's important to look at the global context.
"When I was in the UK, the conversation was about loss and it was about the numbers of friends, family members and colleagues who have died," says Murton.
The impact on our health system has also not been as severe as it has been on other countries – particularly in Europe.
"In the UK, they've got around 55,000 doctors and we've got 5000. But during the pandemic, the UK had 1500 doctors die and we had one."
The point being that the head start we had saved lives – particularly among a workforce that is currently stretched to its limit.
If we didn't have that initial buffer in time to vaccinate, the word "crisis" may not have been strong enough to describe the strain the health sector would have been under.
• The Front Page is a daily news podcast from the New Zealand Herald, available to listen to every weekday from 5am.