“As emergency departments overflow and waiting times increase, it’s obvious New Zealand needs more health professionals. We hear ya,” says ACT’s Deputy Leader and Health spokesperson Brooke van Velden.

“Recently a Ministerial Briefing was leaked to the ACT Party which showed that Health Minister Andrew Little was fully aware of the shortages across the health sector, yet professions on the list such as paramedics and pharmacists still find it too difficult to get into the country. Written Parliamentary Questions show paramedics have a 35.2 per cent vacancy rate.

“Other professions, like specialist doctors and nurses have had to wait two years for the Government to finally loosen immigration regulations. In the meantime the rest of the world has been competing for this talent and New Zealand has been left behind. The state of Victoria has billboards up asking for nurses as you drive home from Auckland Hospital.

“ACT’s immigration policy makes clear that all immigrants with sufficient points would have a path to residency. Today’s leaky announcement is a perfect example of why such a simplified and streamlined system would be better for New Zealand. Under ACT’s policy, the occupations on the Ministry of Health’s list would already have a straight path to residency. They would not have to rely on political whims.

“Just last month in Parliament I asked Andrew Little why paramedics aren’t on the list and he replied, “I can’t explain what has happened in relation to paramedics.” That was a day after Little had received advice from his own department that they should be included. Today he still hasn’t changed anything.

“It’s time Andrew Little and Michael Wood took their heads out of the sand and listened to our health workforce, watched the news and stop being so pig-headed. The health system is in crisis and Kiwis want to have faith that an ambulance will turn up or they can get the care their taxes are paying for.

“Unfortunately the Minister continues to do little. New Zealanders deserve better.”

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Brooke van Velden