Senior doctors say there are signs of growing pressures in the health system that could affect patient safety.
The comment was made in the opening address at the senior doctors' annual conference at Te Papa in Wellington today.
The president of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists said New Zealand has a good public health system, but it is under pressure.
Hein Stander pointed to the latest report of the Health Quality and Safety Commission, showing a rise in serious adverse events or errors in hospitals.
Dr Stander said the number of these events has more than doubled since the commission's first report in 2007.
"This has been explained and attributed to better health sector reporting and while that might be the case, I think it is a space we need to watch very closely."
Senior doctors claimed they were under constant pressure to stay within budget, resulting in fatigue, burnout and low morale.
A higher priority should be given to the happiness and health of the health workforce, he believed.
"Our jobs are intellectually challenging, physically demanding. We are faced with constant change and pressure to stay within budget and to do more with relatively less. This can lead to fatigue, compassion fatigue, burnout and a less effective, more-prone-to-mistakes workforce."
Dr Stander said it was difficult for doctors to offer compassion if they themselves were tired and rushed.
He said they needed time to spend with their patients to ask, "What matters to you" instead of "What is the matter with you?"