04 March 2013

Nurses criticise change to New Zealand immigration policy

A decision to remove certain nursing specialities from the list of long term skill shortages in New Zealand immigration guidelines has angered nursing organisations who say existing nurses, already overworked, will have to take up the slack.

New Zealand visa

Mental health nurses have been removed from the long-term skills shortages list for the first time since 2005.

In a recent change to New Zealand immigration policy, mental health nursing was removed from Immigration New Zealand's (INZ) list of long-term skill shortages. Visa applicants with skills on the list are often prioritised over other applicants.

The decision to remove mental health nurses has angered the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO), who argue that there is a 'critical shortage' of nurses already - particularly in the earthquake damaged area of Christchurch.

"We've got mental health nurses in Christchurch that haven't been able to take their annual leave and who haven't been able to take time off for important training," said Marilyn Head, policy analyst at the NZNO.

"We've got mental health crisis teams that are overloaded and can't respond.

"Canterbury's mental health demand is really high, which is normal after a tragedy."

Mental health nurses had been on the long-term skill shortages list since 2005 but were removed after advice from the Ministry of Health.

However, Mary Gordon, executive director of nursing at the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB), said she did not foresee any new difficulties in recruiting despite the changes.

"Like any specialist role, it is challenging finding experienced candidates and we continue to actively recruit both in New Zealand and overseas to fill these roles," said Ms Gordon.

"Specialist mental health nurses from overseas will still be able to apply to work with CDHB."

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy that specialises in helping people apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.

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