Northland MP Matt King has described fighting for an exemption for a health care assistant at Kaitaia's Switzer Residential Care, to allow her to stay in New Zealand, as repeatedly bashing his head into a brick wall, to no avail.

Far North Mayor John Carter said yesterday it was like trying to eat jelly with a fork.

Mr Carter said he had approached Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway several months ago, requesting a meeting to discuss not only Juliet Garcia's future in Kaitaia but the staffing crisis facing the aged care sector, which was heavily dependent upon immigrants, in general.

Aged Care Association CEO Simon Wallace was to have been there too. The initial response was that the request was being considered, but it has now been declined.
"I'm very disappointed," Mr Carter said, although he would continue to work with the Aged Care Association and others involved in the sector bring attention to Mrs Garcia's predicament, and the staffing crisis in general.

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"These are very able, capable people who do a huge amount of work for the elderly and if they continue to be told they cannot stay here we are in serious trouble."

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"The whole aged care sector is on the point of collapse," he said.

"I'm told that we have 3000 Juliet Garcias in this country. These are very able, capable people who do a huge amount of work for the elderly, and if they continue to be told they cannot stay here we are in serious trouble. The need for care, at rest home and hospital levels, is growing, and will continue to grow, and the people who can do something about addressing that don't even want to talk about it.

"These people have proved themselves to be good, capable contributors to their communities and our country, doing work that New Zealanders, by and large, don't want to do. It mystifies me that Parliament, and I say Parliament, simply isn't interested."

He had discussed the issue with deputy Labour Party leader Kelvin Davis and Labour list MP Willow-Jean Prime, but had made no progress.

The next step in Kaitaia could be to call on the community to show its support for the town's home, perhaps by way of a march.

"Maybe that will capture some of these people's attention," Mr Carter said.

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On October 23 the Northland Age quoted Mr Wallace as saying that at least one rest home had had to close its hospital wing because of a shortage of registered nurses, and that if the government did not act there would be more. It also quoted Switzer general manager Jackie Simkins as saying the Kaitaia home, which has 51 hospital beds, could well be one of them.