Health Minister announcement to address staff shortage. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

HELEN HOLT

Despite interest from overseas nurses, Wairarapa is yet to secure a signed contract from its efforts promoting working at the hospital this year.

Wairarapa was one of six central region DHBs to exhibit at four job fairs in Britain and Ireland in March and April to recruit much needed nurses.

To date 51 people at the job fairs expressed interest to work in the central region [including Wairarapa], but so far none of those have turned into contracts.

The expressions of interest included students who will be qualified next year. The hospital said it would continue to engage with them, once qualified.

There were 44 fulltime equivalent vacancies at the hospital in March this year at Wairarapa Hospital.

Te Whatu Ora-Wairarapa said it was engaging with those who expressed interest to help with making decisions about relocating with families, finding out about working in New Zealand and going through immigration and registration processes.

On Monday, Health Minister Andrew Little announced an international recruitment campaign to address the nationwide health staff shortages.

The announcement included easing the registration process for overseas nurses, providing $10,000 each for registration costs, $5000 for non-practising nurses to reregister, covering international doctors’ salaries during induction courses, training more doctors, nurses and radiographers, and dedicated immigration support for health workers.

The campaign would come into effect in October.

Wairarapa Hospital emergency head Norman Gray said the immediate issue was retaining staff.

“Quite a few staff have left recently.

“It’s not heartbreaking because they’re going to better futures, but we’ve lost some good workers.

“When we lose workers, it makes it harder for the ones who are left and we’re more likely to lose them.”

He said staff shortages were so common they had become the new normal.

“ED is just as busy, but the workload has become significant because of the staff shortage.

“A lot of the blame has been on staff sickness and flu, but the main factor is us not having enough staff.”

He said it was frustrating when Little continuously denied the crisis.

“A week ago, it was very much “no problem”. It was frustrating, especially since we hold executive power quite high in New Zealand.

“At least now he’s started to acknowledge it.”

Gray was sceptical about incentivising former nurses to return.

“It’ll depend on why they left, and they would’ve left for a reason.

“Once you leave, you’ll set up your home, get comfortable where you are.”

“Getting workers from overseas is the immediate fix. The long-term fix is training locals and making them want to enter the profession.”

NZNO [NZ Nurses Organisation] kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said the latest announcement was disappointing.

“It’s a step forward, but it’s not enough.

“Immigration is not the silver bullet. We need to focus on education.

“We believe students should be offered financial support for their professional journey, and no charge for training.”

Nuku said the investment in international nurses wouldn’t resolve the 4000 staff shortage.

She said it didn’t address the time for an international nurse to register, or the ability to bring a spouse with them.

“It’s been a problem to retain the nurses in New Zealand.”

She said there were nurses quitting the profession out of exhaustion and for fear of making mistakes.

“They’re tired, they’re burnt out. No one wants to lose registration because a patient died on their watch.

“People leave because it’s too stressful.”

She said NZNO wanted specific investment in Maori and Pasifika nurses.

“There’s currently seven per cent of the total workforce are Maori, and it’s been that way since 2008.”

The Minister also announced a co-ordinated recruitment campaign which would include the talents of television show Shortland Street.

Nuku said using a television show to recruit nurses felt like a joke.

“Shortland Street is a dramatisation. It doesn’t accurately show what nurses do or how an emergency department operates.”

Gray shared Nuku’s confusion in the Shortland St campaign. He laughed and said he’d always wanted to be Dr Warner.



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