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New Zealand's health sector providing offshore appeal like never before

In a surprising twist, Covid-19 is delivering an unforeseen benefit to our health system; with a surge in skilled applicants wanting to work here.

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Covid-19 is also delivering unforeseen benefits to our health system, with a surge in skilled applicants wanting to work here. Source: 1 NEWS

New Zealand has long experienced skill shortages across the health sector but according to one long-time recruiter, they’re now seeing overseas interest like never before.

Taking it in her stride, one palliative care nurse is out of quarantine and racing towards her new life down under.

Our Covid-19 response has been seen as one of a raft of positives bringing Melissa McKendrick to New Zealand, with a husband and young family in tow.

“I think anywhere else in the world, but particularly in the United States right now. Everyone is just like; New Zealand is the promised land," she said.

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The specialist nurse is now amongst a record number of health professionals who’ve recently applied to be fast-tracked on essential skills visas.

According to Accent Health Recruitment’s Prudence Thomson, New Zealand’s never looked more attractive.

“I’m getting up to 30 enquiries a day… just can’t keep up with it. They all want to come to New Zealand because of the way New Zealand’s working with Covid,” she said.

In the UK, one of our newest recruits, Marcus Bennett, is leaving this week to practice physiotherapy in Northland.

“New Zealand’s always been top of the list because it’s got loads of sports you can do. It’s obviously a beautiful country… it just looked like the right place to go at this time in my career,” Mr Bennett said.

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Before now, New Zealand had long experienced shortages in healthcare, prompting international recruitment drives from local DHBs.

The pandemic is offering a lifeline to some areas, but others remain desperately short of expertise.

“We’re looking for theatre nurses, mental health nurses, general surgical and orthopaedic nurses. Intellectual disabilities and forensics are a concern, that’s where we really want to get some good staff,” said Ms Thomson.

The Ministry of Health says a range of initiatives are underway to address the skills shortage.

While in the meantime, some employers are so desperate they’re holding jobs open for months as offshore employees get their visas.