A major medical workers union says Waikato District Health Board is "crying wolf" over its inability to attract New Zealand staff to work in its hospitals.
Board bosses said this week that millions of dollars were being spent on locums each year due, in part, to the never-ending red tape involved in recruiting international staff.
The board spent close to $14 million on outsourced staff last year, with some 147 equivalent fulltime clinical staff vacancies at present.
Attracting sonographers was a particular problem.
But the Association of Professional and Executive Employees (Apex) said the board's inability to attract staff was entirely its own fault.
Apex spokeswoman Dr Deborah Powell said that the board, and several others, were the architects of their own workforce problem.
"We applaud the invaluable work the registration boards perform in their legislative role to protect the public and ensure health practitioners are of a suitable standard in this country," she said.
"DHBs' indifference to the importance of this essential patient protection system, and its failure to be proactive as employers to address their own workforce issues, is the true problem here."
Dr Powell said Waikato DHB had not made it attractive to be a sonographer at their hospitals, so many had left to work privately.
The equivalent of two sonography staff currently work at Waikato, with two having left recently "due to the DHB's attitude towards them".
This meant urgent referrals in cardiology were waiting up to eight weeks for treatment.
She also said New Zealand-trained physiotherapists and medical radiation technologists (MRTs) were not in short supply,but simply did not want to work at Waikato DHB.
Lakes DHB, a neighbour of Waikato, recently advertised for one MRT and received 15 applications.
"As an employer, Waikato DHB needs to look at why New Zealanders aren't applying for jobs with them, rather than blaming others.”
Dr Powell said they should focus on treating, and paying, their staff well to ensure they felt valued and stayed.
Waikato DHB spokeswoman Mary Anne Gill said the board stood by comments made, by both chief executive Craig Climo and chief operating officer Jan Adams, at their board meeting on Wednesday.
Mr Climo said they had experienced "significant problems" recruiting international staff be cause of the regulations, while Mrs Adams said the health profession was "snookering" itself due to their tough rules.
Medical Council chief executive Philip Pigou said the rules were there to "protect the health and safety of the public".
- Waiheke Marketplace
Should fluoride in water be the responsibility of central government?