The New Zealand Aged Care Association has applauded the government's decision to add aged care nurses to the long-term skills shortage list as a positive step towards addressing chronic nursing shortages.
Chief executive Simon Wallace said Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway's decision would allow rest home providers to more efficiently recruit overseas nurses as a time when they were struggling to retain their nurse workforce.
"We have lobbied hard for this over the last 18 months with the valued support of DHBs, Health Workforce New Zealand and the Nursing Governance Group, among others. The government has listened to our voice, responded responsibly, and we welcome that," Mr Wallace said.
The long term skills shortage list (LTSSL) identifies skilled occupations where there is a sustained and ongoing shortage of workers, in New Zealand and globally. Those employed in one of those occupations may apply for residence after two years working in a LTSSL occupation under specific criteria.
Mr Wallace said the previous government's decision to remove aged care nurses from the LTSSL had exacerbated ongoing shortages, removing pathways to residency, leaving overseas nurses uncertain about their future in New Zealand and feeling undervalued, despite their important contribution to New Zealand's industry and society.
"Our members rely heavily on being able to recruit and retain overseas nurses to be able to provide the highest-quality care for our most vulnerable older people, but there are simply not enough registered nurses available, and at a time when we are now losing nurses to DHBs in the wake of last year's pay settlement, this decision is a lifeline," he said.
Meanwhile the Minister said skills shortages lists were now more regionalised, to reflect what skills were needed where, and to show New Zealanders and temporary migrants where there were opportunities are for work in the provinces.
Early childhood, primary and secondary teaching had been added to the lists in all regions, with aged care (registered) nurses added to the long-term list and 'building associate' added to the construction skills shortage list.