The Health Department has asked the state's industrial relation's commission to intervene and force nurses to stop closing beds at public hospitals.

Yesterday, 1,000 nurses voted to close one in five beds leading to the cancellation of some surgeries, in their push to become the highest paid in the country.

They are demanding a 20 per cent pay rise over three years.

The nurses' union has rejected allegations by the Health Department that patients' lives are at risk as a result of the bed closures.

The Director General of Health, Kim Snowball, says two critically ill patients were denied beds this morning.

Nursing Federation secretary Mark Olsen says between 40 and 70 beds are closed at Royal Perth, Sir Charles Gairdner and Fremantle hospitals.

"I say between those numbers because our members from time to time open up beds to admit patients who are considered to be emergencies who fit the guidelines," he said.

"And, as we said no patients' lives will be put at risk during this campaign."

Mr Olson say the Government was given a week's notice that beds would be closed and yet it chose to do nothing.

"They're working desperately hard trying to break the will of the nurses and the midwives," he said.

"That won't happen, the nurses are bedding down for a long campaign and the longer this goes on, the better they become at closing those beds."

At risk

The Australian Medical Association says there is no doubt lives are being put at risk as a result of the industrial action.

WA branch president Richard Choong says closing beds is a recipe for disaster.

"We do know that some emergency departments are already overcrowded and there is nowhere to put these patients," he said.

"So, there are patients waiting to get in, waiting to be seen and unfortunately if the Government doesn't really act quickly on this issue, I'm sure there will be people that will unfortunately have bad outcomes because of this."

Mr Snowball says he is happy to work towards a new pay deal but closing beds is not the answer.

"I sought the advice of the state solicitor, he's advised me that I'm in no position to make a formal offer to the ANF during the caretaker period," he said.

"Which means I can't respond in the way the ANF would like me to.

"What I can say is we are absolutely committed to a negotiated outcome in the next four and a half months."

The Health Minister Kim Hames says the nurses action to close beds is premature.

"The current EBA doesn't expire until the end of June," he said.

"They're starting this industrial action because there's an election on, just to try to put pressure on the Government.

"The reality is we will follow the normal processes of negotiation."

The Opposition Leader Mark McGowan believes the nurses have a good case.

"What has happened is our nurses have been treated poorly by the Government," he said.

"We've seen what's happened with parking, it's been a bad arrangement for nurses and for other hospital workers.

"We've seen the way the Government has not treated them well in relation to their pay negotiations."

Mr Snowball said he is is seeking an urgent hearing in the Industrial Relations Commission to try to end the dispute.

"We're trying to keep this business as usual but this action, we've really got to take this to the commission very, very fast if this is going to occur," he said.

"We can't actually survive as a system if this continues on in the way it is already."