Friday 3 September 2021

The cost of xenophobia

Radio New Zealand has been tallying the numbers on health workers stuck in our immigration system. 

Expressions of interest from skilled migrants for residence visas have been paused since March last year.

Hundreds of doctors and nurses are among those waiting for news.

The association said the current approach created frustration and angst. It raised concerns about the residence delays in June, writing to the Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi.

But its executive director, Sarah Dalton, said there had been "zero response".

"Overseas doctors caught up in this delay say the uncertainty makes it difficult," she said "They feel they can't buy a house, settle their families, or put down roots, and are being forced to reconsider their futures in New Zealand.

"We have one of the heaviest reliances on overseas trained doctors anywhere in the OECD, more than 40 percent of our senior medical workforce trained in another part of the world and then for various reasons chose to come and live in work in New Zealand."

What should those workers do in the meantime?

The immigration minister Kris Faafoi said the government acknowledged the disruption that suspension of Expressions of Interest selections for the Skilled Migrant Category has had.

"We are working through advice on when and how to re-open EOI selections, and will have decisions to announce soon," he said.

Doctors and nurses were likely to be eligible for temporary visas while they waited for EOIs to be selected, he said.

That would be fine, except that Labour has made living in New Zealand as a non-resident very costly. It's clear that non-residents are very much second class. They have no access to the border system if they need to travel and are forbidden against buying a home. If you're a mid-career professional who has moved to New Zealand to work in medicine, being told you're banned from buying a house in the place where you live and that there is no expectation that the immigration system will even begin thinking about giving you residence so that you might do so - it's amazing that so many have stayed here. Australia is just a jump away and pays a lot more. 

And it's all the more insane when staffing is the critical constraint in expanding ICU capacity in a pandemic. They don't have the staff to run more ICU beds. Auckland is already, in a tiny outbreak, sending non-Covid ICU patients to other places and seeking staffing help from elsewhere. What hope would we have in any real nationwide outbreak? 

And here's more from Gill Bonnett at RNZ:

New figures show the numbers of doctors and nurses waiting to apply for residence has balloooned to almost 3000.

Figures released under the Official Information Act show the numbers of doctors who have submitted an expression of interest (EOI) for skilled migrant residence (SMC) has tripled to 675 since May and nurses have more than doubled to 2231.

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists this week described the process as shambolic,

GPs and specialists are thinking of leaving the country or have already left because they can't get residence.

A consultant radiologist in Hawke's Bay, Phillip Clarke, is worried for the new doctors arriving, including four overseas consultants in his hospital department.

"We've got a new radiologist from Britain, and a radiologist from the States. We've got a radiologist from Germany, who's been with us about a year and we've got a nuclear medicine physician from South Africa. All of these people are on the essential list, and none of them have got residency. None of them have got any idea of when they're going to get residency.

"You're talking about people who are in the mid 30s at the youngest. They've got partners, they've got families, they've got a life. You really are trying to build the rest of your life on no surety whatsoever, and it's very very unsettling.

I know people get upset when I say that Labour just hates immigrants. They want to put it up to incompetence at Immigration New Zealand, or capacity issues, or anything else. It jars with the image they have built of what the Government is like. 

From what accounts one can gather in Wellington, half of Labour's caucus just hates immigrants. They see low unemployment numbers recently, credit the closed border, and are very happy that current policy is chasing non-residents out of the country. They believe that migrants steal jobs.  

If you don't think that Labour just hates immigrants. you've gotta really ask yourself how we can otherwise have gotten into a spot like we're now in. New Zealand has really really low ICU capacity by OECD standards. Health staff is a critical and binding constraint. We could see the pandemic coming from February 2020. For nineteen months, nothing has been fixed in the immigration system. Incompetence or lack of capability in Immigration New Zealand could explain perhaps a few months of this. Be generous and say it might even explain a year's worth of nonsense, and start the timer at the end of last year's lockdown when Immigration NZ wasn't able to process anything. It is still broken with no hope in sight. 

Does Labour really hate immigrants so much that they're happy for the health system to lose critical capacity in a pandemic? All signs so far point to yes. 

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