Covid has exposed a health workforce shortage that has been present over many years and over many governments.
The rate-limiting step for "protecting the health system" which required us to go into lockdowns and cancelled cancer surgery wasn't capital resources such as ventilators but human capital such as ICU nurses.
As Delta rampaged amongst us in November last year Andrew Little announced an ICU nurse recruitment campaign called Kiwi Health Jobs. This seemed like a good idea in November 2021 but by the end of January 2022 still nothing had eventuated. In fact it was four months after the announcement on February 7, 2022 when the recruitment campaign was actually launched. A delay in itself that demands some answers.
This week questions were asked about how many ICU nurses had actually been employed by the campaign and it turns out the answer is three. A pitifully small number for $415,000 regardless of how many may be in the pipeline.
One reason for the small number is that bizarrely a goal of the campaign was not to actually have more ICU nurses employed. I specifically asked Andrew Little what the performance measures were for the recruitment campaign and amongst other things he told me it was about the "candidate experience". We are still in the middle of a pandemic where we desperately need ICU nurses not applause for pretty pictures on a government website. Just employ more nurses.
Reply 4591 (2022) has been answered [to Dr Shane Reti 18 Feb 2022] Portfolio: Health (Hon Andrew Little) Question: Further to 1939(2022) what are the performance measures, if any, for Kiwi Health Jobs and the $415,000 funding?
Reply: The measures of success include the number of individuals engaged through direct sourcing strategies, the performance of the online marketing material (i.e. engagements and interactions people have had with the campaign) and the candidate experience. Then subsequently, the number of candidates that have either submitted an application and/or query.
There are other system-wide reasons to be considered for the poor recruitment campaign result to date. We are now competing in the international market for nurses. Are we a welcoming landing point?
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We know our immigration settings have been very challenging in bringing nurses into New Zealand.
We know the public sector pay freeze has sent ICU nurses offshore. We know the Safer Nursing Accord that assists safer nursing workloads was not fully implemented by June last year as promised.
We also know that there are significant challenges today with pay equity for nurses.
It is not clear to me then that overall we are in a good place to compete well in the international nursing market and we need to address this issue.