Christchurch mental health nurses worry over immigration changes

Published:  4 Mar at 4 PM
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A move by Immigration New Zealand to cut the mental health nursing category from the long-term skills shortage list is causing concern in the sector.

According to Marilyn Head, policy analyst for the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO), Christchurch has been experiencing a critical shortage of mental health professionals since the trauma of the massive earthquake which destroyed most of the city centre. Mental health crisis teams, she said, are so overloaded with work they can’t respond immediately to emergencies.

Head adds that mental health problems are normal after a tragedy, but create high demand which is preventing mental health professionals from taking their annual leave or attending essential training programmes. The NZNO, she said, had advised Immigration New Zealand against the remo9val of the category from the skills list.

However, according to nursing executive director of the Canterbury District Health Board Mary Gordon, the administration is continuing to recruit experienced mental health nurses both from overseas and in the region. Gordon added she does not expect any problems to arise from the skills list changes.

Immigration consultant Mike Bell disagrees, saying that the removal will make it more difficult for qualified mental heath nurses to migrate to New Zealand, as the process for jobs outside the skills list is more complicated, takes longer and is less secure. Other occupations removed at the same time include ambulance paramedic, nurse practitioner, nurse manager and nurse researcher.
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