Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for nursing workforce has increased to carry out testing, contact tracing and vaccinating but the supply of internationally qualified nursing professionals is very limited. There are about 900 unfilled nursing vacancies in rest homes and around 1500 in DHBs, the NZNO apprised the government.
The current immigration rules 'risk losing a large number of health professionals when we can least afford to', the NZ Nurses Organisation (NZNO) warned in the letter they have written to Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi.
As per the report, NZNO sent the letter on September 8 but has not had a response beyond acknowledgement of receipt.
Not only NZNO, ICU leaders also raised demands for immigration and MIQ reforms for supporting and retaining the current nurse workforce. Three Proposals have been outlined by the NZNO for considerations:-
- Immigration New Zealand (INZ) re-opens applications for the General Visitor Visa (GVV) for partners of New Zealand-based health workers.
- INZ re-opens Expressions of Interest for the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) for health workers.
- INZ place all applications by health workers for SMC and Residence from Work (RfW) processing into their priority queue.
Nurses working on temporary work visas are facing difficulties in acquiring residency visas which leaves them in ‘a permanent state of temporariness’. The NZNO said that the highly skilled and in-demand nurses are facing issues in buying property in the region because of future uncertainties forcing them to leave their jobs. Consequently, they are switching to higher paying jobs in Australia.
The NZNO said, “Many internationally qualified members of NZNO are becoming frustrated with current immigration settings and some have left New Zealand as a result."
The NZNO maintained that immigration changes alone will not solve the long standing nursing shortage in New Zealand. But, it will be a crucial factor in maintaining the domestic health services until there is a structured plan to grow its native healthcare workforce.