Health crisis: New measures to attract overseas staff

The Government is rolling out a range of initiatives to attract health staff as it struggles under pressure due to Covid-19, "the worst flu season in living memory" and unprecedented staff absences, Health Minister Andrew Little said.

Health worker wearing personal protective equipment in hospital (file picture).

Changes include making it easier for overseas staff to get registered in New Zealand, while international nurses will get up to $10,000 to pay for their registration.

"Another area we are looking at is the repetition of processes and the length of time it takes for overseas-trained nurses when they are seeking registration to work in New Zealand," Little said.

Little is writing to a range of authorities, such as Immigration NZ and the Nurses Council, to reduce the time it takes to get registered.

International doctors will get their salaries covered over a six-week bridging programme and three-month training internships.

The Government also provides the cost of re-registering for New Zealand nurses to return to work up to $5000. This scheme was piloted previously and saw about 200 nurses go back into the health work force. That scheme is now being expanded.

Little said he wanted to boost onshore GP training numbers from 200 new a year, up to 300 and also increase training slots for radiology registrars.

Little said they were setting up a "one-stop international recruitment service" within Health NZ "to make it as easy as possible for health workers from other countries to move here and find jobs".

"The service will offer help with both immigration and registration for all kinds of health workers, including doctors, nurses, midwives and allied health workers such as physiotherapists."

Little said there would also be a partnership campaign with Shortland St - "that's the TV programme" - to attract more people into nursing.

He said staff absences had been "extreme over the past few weeks".

Last month GPs told Little at their general conference the shortage of doctors was leading to a crisis, with some rural doctors working “24/7 just to help to keep people alive,” Dr Fiona Bolden said.

The Aged Care Association has also said staff shortages in the sector have reached crisis point.