The move seeks to attract overseas workers and train local ones
The New Zealand government has announced a string of measures, including covering re-registration costs for returning health workers, in a bid to fill the gaps within the sector that is hit with a staffing crisis.
According to Health Minister Andrew Little, the new targeted measures aim to train more health workers domestically while attracting more doctors and nurses to New Zealand to address immediate workforce pressures.
"The current health workforce shortages have been decades in the making but have been exacerbated by COVID-19. Today's package of measures removes actual cost barrier to migrants entering the health workforce while also ensuring we are training enough people locally in the long-term," the minister said in a statement.
One of the announced measures include expanding its Return to Nursing Support programme that provides $5,000 in funding for re-registration for every non-practicing nurse in the country who want to return in the workforce.
It will also be more flexible to make it attractive to those who want to work part-time, according to the government, adding that it expects the programme to help 200 nurses return to the health workforce.
In addition, the government announced that it plans to double the number of nurse practitioners trained each year to 100 and increase the number of general practitioners to 300. It is also planning to support the individuals who helped in the COVID-19 vaccination programme in entering the health workforce.
Read more: Unvaxxed nurses urged to get jab to return to work
To make the country more attractive in international health workers, the government said it will streamline and fund the system for them so they can get their professional qualifications recognised in New Zealand.
The government also plans to establish a one-stop International Recruitment Service within Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand to help international health workers move to the country and find jobs.
"The service will offer help with both immigration and registration for all kinds of health workers, including doctors, nurses, midwives and allied health workers such as physiotherapists," read the government announcement.
The new initiatives come as New Zealand aims to boost its strained health workforce as it suffers from a staffing shortage.
"The initiatives announced today are just the start of the workforce plan," said Little in his statement. "The workforce taskforce will work with health professional and training organisations and will consider questions like what the nature of health jobs will be in the future."
Little added that the health workforce plan will tapping on getting more Māori and Pacific health workers on board.
"New Zealand's response to the pandemic has shown how important it is to have a wide range of people and roles in the health and disability sector, such as whānau ora workers, kaimahi, and support workers," said the minister.
"They made a huge contribution, and we are committed to supporting the development of this workforce to help ease pressure on health professionals, and build the capacity and capability of the Māori and Pacific health workforces."