Anaesthetic technicians in Hawke's Bay have walked off the job today as part of a long-running dispute about pay and conditions.
All 16 of the Hawke's Bay District Health Board's anaesthetic technicians took action, forcing the district health board to postpone 13 surgical procedures.
Emergency and life-saving surgeries would go ahead.
Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staff (APEX) union representative Deborah Powell said the action was taken because technicians were leaving the DHB for higher pay at private hospitals, creating staff shortages and a continual crisis in working conditions.
"There is a significant recruitment and retention problem with anaesthetic technicians at the moment," she said.
"The shortage is around 20-30 percent, which is causing operations to be cancelled of course because if we don't have enough anaesthetic technicians it's not safe to put people to sleep."
She said it was up to the DHB to bridge the gap between what it was paying its anaesthetic staff and what the private sector was offering, which at present amounted to a $30,000 difference.
The current pay offer was 9 percent over three years and this would not be enough to adequately bridge the gap, she said.
Further strikes were planned at Whangarei hospital in Northland next month, after a 24-hour strike there on Wednesday, 3 August.
The union has been in negotiations with Southern, Hawke's Bay, Mid-Central and Lakeside district health boards.