Andrew Little slammed for 'just not helpful' comments accusing NZ Nurses Organisation of 'sitting in Wellington'

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) is calling for an urgent conference to address the health care crisis.

Speaking to AM on Wednesday, Health Minister Andrew Little, who has refused to use the word "crisis", took a swing at the NZNO - accusing the organisation of "speaking in forked tongues" because it "blocked a pay equity deal they signed up to in December".

Little accused the NZNO of "sitting in Wellington pining about what may or may not be the case". 

On Thursday, NZNO chief executive Paul Goulter rejected Little's comments - saying health workers across the sector just want to see action.

"It's just not useful," Goulter said of Little's comments. "What we've done overnight is we're encouraging our nurses, all over the country, to let the minister know that it's not just 'sitting in Wellington.' It's everywhere, all over the country and it's just got to be fixed.

"Arguing over words like 'crisis', or whatever just seems to be really problematic - it's just a slanging match. I think we need to get on and fix it," Goulter told AM.

Goulter said union members were feeling upset and angry at Little's comments.

Accusing the NZNO of speaking in "forked tongues" was "misleading and inflammatory", he said.

Andrew Little.
Andrew Little. Photo credit: Newshub.

"[Nurses are] really dirty on it because they think they're being trashed by their minister," Goulter told AM host Ryan Bridge. "I've never known why it's useful to attack the spokespeople for a group of 55,000."

The NZNO's call for an urgent health conference comes after a letter from more than 900 doctors was sent to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, saying the workforce was at risk of catastrophic collapse.