National Party Health spokesman Tony Ryall says the country is heading into a winter of discontent over public health services as Labour's stewardship is found lacking.
"The health workforce crisis, which is spreading like a virus through New Zealand, is a symptom of Labour's focus on bureaucracy instead of delivering service to patients."
Mr Ryall is commenting after reports this morning that up to 40 beds at Wellington Hospital - more than one in 10 - are lying empty because of staff shortages.
"A complete lack of foresight by Labour has led to this crisis. They have been negligent in their workforce planning."
The revelations follow reports earlier in the week that Auckland hospitals are failing to cope with patient demand and the dangerous overload had led to patients being put in parked ambulances.
"As winter approaches this situation can only get worse," says Mr Ryall.
"If David Cunliffe is really 'running the show' he should explain why, after the extra $5 billion a year Labour is spending on health, patients are not receiving better treatment sooner.
"The situation in Wellington is grim, given that this was a board supposedly on formal notice. But the real villain is the Labour Government which has built up the bureaucracy, while letting a frontline workforce crisis develop.
"Labour has been well aware of these shortages for years. But all they have done is call for 43 reports and endless committees."
National's health discussion paper Better, Sooner, More Convenient proposes moving to medical training self-sufficiency, investigating bonding and student-loan write-offs for health professionals working in hard-to-staff areas, and a real focus on retention of current staff.