Covid 19 Delta outbreak: ‘unwanted’ nurses leave New Zealand due to immigration rules

12 new community cases of Covid-19 were announced Monday by PM Jacinda Ardern, a self-isolation test for international travelers and to revive the CSR travel bubble for the Pacific. Video / New Zealand Herald

New Zealand is losing nurses to immigration rules that make them feel “unwanted and in a temporary position,” the government has warned – a situation that puts pressure on staff grappling with thousands of workers. vacancies during a pandemic.

The NZ Nurses Association has written to Immigration Minister Chris Fafoi, calling for urgent reforms to help fill a “severe shortage” of nurses, made worse by the COVID pandemic.

The nurses’ organization warned in a letter to the Herald that the current rules “risk losing large numbers of medical professionals when we can least afford them.”

A major problem is that nurses with temporary work visas have difficulty obtaining residency visas, the union, which has more than 50,000 members, told Fafoi.

“Highly skilled and sought-after professionals who wish to make New Zealand their permanent home are unable to purchase properties and feel undesirable by a system that places them in a temporary position rather than giving them certainty for the future. .

The New Zealand Nurses Organization wants a change in immigration.  photo / Michael Craig
The New Zealand Nurses Organization wants a change in immigration. photo / Michael Craig

“The success of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic depends on our nursing workforce. It is therefore important that all possible measures are taken to retain and support the workforce we have.

“Many qualified NZNO members internationally are disillusioned with the current immigration parameters and some have left New Zealand. “

The appeal will increase pressure on the government to make changes. Last week, The Herald revealed that ICU leaders wanted similar immigration and MIQ reform as the internationally wanted ICU nurse couldn’t enter the country even after agreeing. a job offer. Others were already going here due to visa uncertainty.

More than a quarter of New Zealand nurses come from abroad, mainly from the Philippines and India. The staff shortage is long-standing and there are currently more than 900 nursing vacancies in rest homes and around 1,500 at DHB, NZNO said in its letter to Fafoi.

The COVID pandemic has “severely limited the supply of trained nursing professionals internationally and increased the demand for labor to assist with managed isolation and quarantine, testing, research contacts and vaccination, as well as providing intensive care to people “. The situation has worsened. Covid 19 “.

The NZNO asked Fafoi to consider three proposals: reopen visa applications for partners of health workers based in New Zealand after being halted by the pandemic; Resume the expression of interest for the category of qualified migrants for health workers; and that residency be a priority for all migrant and health workers qualified from job applications.

“Immigration alone will not allow New Zealand to meet the needs of our health workforce,” NZNO wrote in her letter to Director of Industrial Services Glenda Alexander. “However, unless we have a comprehensive plan to develop our own health workforce, immigration remains a major source of people with the diversity of skills and experience we need to maintain our health services. . it happens.”

Immigration Minister Chris Fafoi.  Photo / Mark Mitchell
Immigration Minister Chris Fafoi. Photo / Mark Mitchell

NZNO sent the letter on September 8, but received no response beyond acknowledgment.

A spokesperson for Fafoi told the Herald that, “With regard to healthcare workers awaiting residency, the Immigration Minister has confirmed that he will have more to say on this matter very soon.”

On issues raised around critical care nurses, a spokesperson for Fafoi said these workers can enter New Zealand thanks to a limit exception dedicated to essential health workers, which includes all registered health professionals. and other health and disability workers.

“This is a fast-track process as applicants are not required to prove that their skills are not readily available… Most limit exception requests are processed within five business days. However, the volume of requests and some may take longer depending on the complexity. Applications for approval in principle from employers and agents to bring an important employee to New Zealand usually take two weeks.

“Once they have a visa, these people still have to get a job at MIQ. There is no manual allocation of MIQ rooms for agents in the health sector and the demand for places remains high ”

National strongly criticized the current immigration regime, with the reopening of visa categories and the prioritization of residency applications for essential healthcare workers, as well as the offer of residency visas on arrival for experienced nurses. .

Last week, The Herald reported how immigration issues are affecting critical care nurses, who want to help hospitals cope with current staff shortages and increase their ability to prepare for any increase in the number of COVID patients. -19.

The Intensive Care Society said foreign intensive care nurses were struggling to come to the country due to visa issues and MIQ places available. Some critical care nurses who are already in New Zealand on visas are moving to Australia and elsewhere for high paying jobs as immigration delays mean they can’t plan ahead.


“It’s a sellers market right now; these people are wanted all over the world. Australia, for example, is actively seeking to recruit more intensive care nurses to be ready to reopen the border. And us, that’s the right thing to do, ”said Craig Carr, ICU physician, New Zealand regional president of the Australia NZ Intensive Care Society.

Health Minister Andrew Little previously acknowledged the “extraordinary pressure” on health workers, who “not only have to adapt and respond to the COVID virus, but it is also a reckless system. There are a large number of vacancies. “

Responding to the issue of critical care nursing, Little said the government was focusing on bringing healthcare workers across the border with exemptions, “and it is happening,” with 43% of those in this group. future.



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