Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith has told the North's politicians it is up to them to fix the health crisis.
He denied using the situation as leverage to force the Stormont parties back into a power-sharing executive, insisting he does not have the power to intervene to provide solutions.
Mr Smith convened a stand-alone "health summit" with the five main parties at Stormont House in Belfast as part of the wider talks process to restore devolution.
It was anticipated that he would use the encounter to urge them to make a series of commitments to tackle the crisis.
But Sinn Féin emerged from the meeting claiming Mr Smith did not mention any such pledges.
The party's health spokesman, Pat Sheehan, also said the Conservative MP left "midway through" the discussions.
"It was disappointing that Julian Smith didn't stay for the full meeting," he said.
The summit comes a day after an unprecedented strike across Northern Ireland - action which saw thousands of nurses take to picket lines for the first time ever in the UK.
Around 5,000 medical appointments were cancelled as a result of the strike which paralysed parts of the North's already foundering health and social care sector.
Healthcare workers in Northern Ireland said they were left with no other option than to stage the walkout after years of under-staffing and sliding pay rates compared with England and Wales.
The health service crisis has emerged as the key political issue dominating the early stages of the new initiative to restore power-sharing.
Some of the local parties have accused the Secretary of State of using the issue as a stick to beat them into striking a deal to resurrect the institutions.
They claim he could intervene if he wanted to, and act on the pay issue in the ongoing absence of power-sharing.
After the summit took place, Mr Smith reiterated his position that he does not have the power to make decisions on the North's health service, making clear to the parties that it is their responsibility.
"I have explained previously that I don't believe I have the power to intervene under the Good Friday Agreement, under that agreement that has provided stability to Northern Ireland, over the past decades," he said.
"Health was established as a devolved matter.
"And we're prioritising health today in terms of the talks process. And I really, really hope that, if we can get the devolved institutions back up and running, that is the most sustainable way to getting pay parity for the trade unions and for the workers that have been going on strike."
On the list of commitments Mr Smith is hoping the parties will commit to, Mr Sheehan said: "There was no mention of pledges.
"There was no discussion around any pledges, and we made it clear to Julian Smith while he was in the room that the health workers shouldn't be used for political leverage in these political negotiations and if the Executive isn't sorted out, and even while we are waiting for that to happen, that he and the Civil Service have the power to implement pay parity and to increase nurse training places to ensure there is safe staffing levels on our wards."
Mr Smith said he did not want to get into a "blame game" with local politicians over the health issue.
"But what I know is I do not have the power to direct the Northern Ireland Civil Service," he added.
"I've been working hard behind the scenes to try to see what money might be available to try to see how we can move this dispute on, and my conclusion is, the best way I can help is to get a sustainable deal over a number of years that gives nurses and hospital workers what they want, and ensures that they have security, and the best way to do that is that the Executive gets up and running as soon as possible to ensure that those workers have stability over Christmas, but over the next two or three years as well."