Hundreds of striking nurses and supporters have joined the picket line outside Auckland City Hospital as part of nationwide industrial action.
Chants and supporting toots from passers by can be heard all around the hospital grounds and surrounding streets.
Nurses nationwide walked off the job today from 7am after rejecting the latest pay offer from the district health boards (DHBs).
NZNO industrial services manager Cee Payne has said life-preserving services and contingency plans would be in place across the 20 district health boards.
"Patient safety and public safety is paramount," Payne said.
DHB spokeswoman Helen Mason said it was very disappointing that strike action was going ahead.
"We're waiting to receive the final recommendations from the Employment Relations Authority (ERA)," Mason said late yesterday.
Mason said those recommendations would be taken "very seriously" and it was disappointing NZNO hadn't waited for those recommendations before deciding on strike action.
The ERA are assessing whether the offer addresses the NZNO's concerns.
Mason could not say what would happen if the recommendations arrived in the middle of the strike.
"We're looking at an unprecedented circumstance for the country. Not having 70 per cent of your workforce in the workplace will be a significant challenge.
"We need to understand what the recommendations are and we need to consider those recommendations and that will inform what our next actions are," Mason said.
The Government had hoped last-minute talks between district health boards and nurses would avert strike action on Thursday.
Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said the Government was very disappointed that nurses had voted to reject the latest pay offer and walk off the job for 24 hours tomorrow.
"From this point the Government believes there is still time to avert industrial action. We encourage DHBs and NZNO to continue with urgent facilitation talks over the next two days.
"As it stands, though, we are on track for a strike action on Thursday which will cause disruption to health services nationwide," Peters told reporters.
"We need the public to be prepared. We've made all the steps possible we can to ensure there is the least amount of sacrifice, or medical difficulty, with respect to potential patients," Peters said.
All NZNO members striking will walk out of the hospitals in time for the industrial action and join the picket at the hospitals.
The rallies for Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington begin at 7am outside the main hospitals.
For the full list of activities please go to the Health Needs Nursing Facebook page.
What you should do
• Nurses plan to strike for 24 hours from 7am today.
• Anyone with an urgent medical need should not hesitate to dial 111 or go to an emergency department.
• For day-to-day medical queries you can contact your GP or phone Healthline on 0800 611 116.
• If your appointment or surgery has been postponed you should have been contacted by your district health board already.
• If you have something scheduled and have not heard otherwise, you should attend as usual. If you are unsure, contact your health board.
• Patients deemed not to require "life-saving" care, who need help with tasks such as turning on bedrests, inserting intravenous pumps, and assistance going to the bathroom and bathing, will wait longer for help. Family, volunteers and doctors have been asked to help out in some cases.
• Some services like Family Planning are not affected by the strike, but others could be if the nurses are paid by the DHB so check if your appointment is still going ahead.