Migrant Stories – "The Health Care System Is Second Rate"

Continuing in our series of Migrant Stories: first hand accounts of migrant life in New Zealand, taken from locations around the net.

This story was written by a nurse with over 30 years of experience. In it she tells of prejudice and how difficult it was to find a job. She also talks about how thousands and thousands of health care dollars are being wasted because there is no incentive to change and of how people wait so long for some tests and treatments that permanent damage is done to their health. She is minded to stay and work through this but her Kiwi partner is starting to look toward Australia to make some money.

“As a nurse in the US with over 3 decades of experience, I can tell you I had one helluva time trying to get registered to work as a nurse in this country. I have found there is prejudice here – even if you are skilled and willing to work, not coming here looking for a handout – just a JOB. (I lost track of the number of applications I filled out – to do ANYTHING – before I literally got lucky and got a job at a DHB hospital as a Health Care Assistant, which was a major stepping stone to getting the registration.)

My partner, a kiwi, was just as surprised (and disappointed) at the difficulty I had. I make a good living here, and it’s because I do work hard. And, to be honest, I’m going through some not unexpected issues where I work – but in talking with other foreign (and young, less experienced) nurses, it seems to be the norm. So I am just biting my tongue and getting through it; I know enough to recognize it and I can deal with it. Some of it is because it’s New Zealand, some of it is because it’s nurses.

Another negative here – they are resistant to change moreso than anywhere I’ve ever seen. I worked in the health insurance industry for 10 years before I came here, and one of the things I looked for were areas where money was wasted. Here, I can see thousands and thousands of health care dollars wasted because there is no incentive to change things. And they do some things here the same way we did them in US hospitals when I was a student nurse. And since residents here see health care as “free”, they really don’t care. And they don’t realize the health care system is second rate. Yep, I said it and I really believe it. I see things every day that scare the hell out of me. People have to wait days for some tests and treatments that would be done in a matter of hours in the US. By then, permanent damage has been done. But, oh well, that’s just the way it is.

The saddest thing is, I believe New Zealand, because it IS a small country, has the potential to be a world leader in health care. Too bad it will never happen, because nothing will change unless there is a catastrophe that makes it absolutely necessary and without option.

My life here is simpler, and I do delight in the small things – like seeing the covey of quail cross the road when I’m on my way to work in the morning, or seeing gorgeous flowers in bloom, or just simply the ever changing scenery (which at the moment is pretty brown and crispy.) So, I’m staying, even though I know my partner is starting to get the itch to go back to Oz and make some money. He has been looking for a job for several months. So, yeah, even if you have experience and education, that doesn’t mean smooth sailing as far as getting a job here.

Excuse me, though, as I must put on my rose-colored glasses and go sit in the sun. (First applying sunscreen so I don’t develop skin cancer!)”

Doctors and Nurses Notes
There is a workforce crisis in New Zealand’s hospitals. Specialist senior doctors are being lost and there is a shortage of cancer specialists. Staff are lost to Australia (where the salaries are 35% higher) and to private practice. The causes are: low pay by international standards, overwork and lack of resources to do the job.

In 2008 The College of Nurses, Aotearoa, NZ Inc. advised the incoming government of the following problems:

*“Unmanageable workloads and limited job satisfaction through inability to maintain professional standards of care deter people from remaining in the nursing profession. Most nurses graduate with high levels of debt and emigration is seen as a sensible option for many who face many years of debt repayment in New Zealand.  Currently 23% of the NZ nursing workforce is imported, often from countries which can ill afford to lose nurses.

* The many innovations and initiatives that nursing has striven for (such as establishment of the Nurse Practitioner role and increased nursing services in PHOs) are consistently slowed, impeded or blocked at health policy level.

* The magnet hospital movement is a strongly evidence based solution to patient safety and nurse workforce recruitment and retention. It remains largely ignored in NZ despite vigorous efforts by nursing to see it promoted.

* A larger Maori nursing workforce is needed to provide services to Maori

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3 thoughts on “Migrant Stories – "The Health Care System Is Second Rate"

  1. I would like to mention that gareth morgan has a book about the nz health care system that anyone migrating for the health care ought to read, seriously.

    Health Cheque: The Truth about NZ’s Health System it is called

    It’s a frank book that discusses the problems with the way they rationalise care in which he states a theory that the high quality of the doctors and nurses are the only thing holding the system together.

    Yet New Zealand has the highest percent of migrant doctors in the OECD, a staggering 52%
    http://hpm.org/en/Surveys/The_University_of_Auckland_-_New_Zealand/15/Strategies_to_overcome_workforce_shortages.html

    says in the review this book that:

    “The New Zealand health workforce is under pressure from a number of sources. In addition to those problems that are shared by other countries – such as an increase in the proportion of part-time workers due to the feminisation of the workforce, increased demand for health services, and the aging of the health workforce – New Zealand faces major challenges from the internationalisation of health workers. It has the highest percentage of migrant doctors among OECD countries (52 percent compared with an OECD average of 36 percent) and one of the highest for nurses (OECD, 2008). **It also has one of the highest rates of outward migration of health workers. Four years after graduating, around 25 percent of NZ trained doctors are no longer registered in New Zealand and the loss increases to around one third after 9 years.**”

    The doctors and nurses seem to mostly be british people who are outdoorsy migrants, or locum americans taking a working vacation, or political or crime refugess who could not get into other countries such as oz or canada. The kiwis just bugger off out of their own country and people from countries where the native language is not English are often only offered less responsible positions, in caregiving and cleaning.

  2. I agree that health care in NZ is second rate. They really lack the staffs. Here you can't just go to any General Practitioner, you need to register first. It takes some time to register as almost all GPs have so many registered to them. I had to give my name to the GP coordinator to find us a GP. And since they lack medical staffs, health insurance is very expensive. And after all that, the insurance company makes it clear that if the medical procedure can be paid by ACC, we should first make the claim from ACC?!? (ACC is the government agency that pays for medical needs from accidents or employment related..) I don't understand why NZ seem to discriminate against foreign medical staffs who come here to migrate when theirs is not really as good..

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