Five hundred overstretched GPs from around the country confronted Health Minister Andrew Little at the National Conference for General Practice about what they say is a dire shortage of doctors across the country.
“We are in a crisis,” said Christchurch GP, Dr Dermot Coffey.
"I know you won’t use the word but we must acknowledge it.. that sense of urgency is what is lacking."
Dr Fiona Bolden said some rural doctors are working “24/7 just to help to keep people alive.”
"We are going through what most of us would call a rural health crisis."
"Even if we won't concede it's a national health crisis."
But while Little acknowledged the industry is stretched, he didn’t concede the health system was at a crisis level.
"The system as a whole... is, I think, coping," he said.
"People are still getting the care they need from the services."
But doctors told him said they need immediate support and more doctors in many rural areas that have been most affected by the shortage, often leaving patients in the area without medical care.
President of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, Samantha Murton, the strain has reached a point that they've been working urgently working to bring in doctors from overseas to fill the widening workforce gaps.
"We are looking at having overseas people come in as much as we can.
"Things are going on to get people into general practice right now."