Hipkins’ half-hearted attempt to secure MIQ spots for healthcare workers too long overdue

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins’ announcement last Thursday that he was looking to allocate MIQ spots for critical health workers is months too late and highlights the Government’s failure to prepare for the Delta outbreak, says National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford.

“The Government has had 18 months to prepare our health system for Covid outbreaks, yet only now is Minister Hipkins starting to think about setting aside MIQ spots for critical health workers who have been locked out of the country.

“We know there are hundreds of critical health workers stuck offshore who should be here already supporting our Covid response. It is utter madness that, in a global pandemic and with a worldwide shortage of nurses, they weren’t given priority for MIQ spots. 

“Now we are losing them to other countries competing with us before they have even set foot in New Zealand. This is on top of the doctors and nurses that left our shores to go elsewhere who were fed up at being stuck in immigration limbo and not having a pathway to residency.

“Of the nurses who do manage to find a spot in MIQ, 70 per cent are required to complete a 10-week Competence Assessment Programme to become registered, which further delays the time they can start working.

“Minister Hipkins should have known this and moved with urgency to set aside MIQ spaces early this year when it was clear Delta was coming.

“This is not their only failing, though. We know that the Minister of Immigration isn’t keeping track of the speciality of nurses coming into New Zealand, so he has no idea how many ICU nurses have arrived.

“We also know that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Immigration haven’t even bothered to meet to discuss nursing shortages in New Zealand.

“With fewer resourced ICU beds now than we had a year ago, and the New Zealand College of Critical Care Nurses reporting 100 vacancies for ICU nurses, it is absolutely appalling and a complete failure that this Government has done nothing to address the shortages during a pandemic.

“The solution to our immediate healthcare shortage is not rocket science. All we needed was a few simple things that should have been implemented with urgency last year. Our ‘Opening Up’ plan covers what needs to be done in detail.

“Unfortunately, the Government’s health response has been woeful. We have been let down. This Delta outbreak has already hit our hospitals hard and may get worse. We are not prepared because of the Government’s inaction.”