Last week I was contacted by a migrant nurse working in aged care.
Through tears, she spoke of 40 elderly patients in her care contracting covid. Her centre is stretched so thin that not even endless double shifts were enough to provide adequate care.
She has been in New Zealand for a decade, working in healthcare and studying towards a nursing degree.
But after graduating late last year, she was denied the ability to apply for fast-tracked residency and told she must wait two more years.
Uncertain, overworked and unable to buy a house, she is now looking for work in Australia. Of course, she will find it.
New Zealand is desperately short of 4000 nurses, 1500 GPs and 1500 specialists.
Our health system is buckling under the pressure.
Patients are waiting hours in emergency departments, parents can't get their children into a doctor and surgeries and cancer screening procedures are all being delayed.
But skilled migrants are not being welcomed into New Zealand with immediate residency as they would be if they went to Australia.
The Government's policy to exclude nurses from the fast-track residence list makes no sense.
Ultimately, it is costing New Zealanders their lives.
The Government's first failure was the lack of sympathy for nurses separated from their families during the lockdown.
Migrant nurses were trapped, half a world away from loved ones. It took 18 months of pressure before the Government finally offered families a chance to reunite but by then many had left for good.
Second, the Government stipulated that migrant nurses must have lived with their offshore partners for three months for their relationship to be deemed "genuine and stable".
If not, Immigration NZ sent them home to tick that box.
We should have instead offered partners a visitor's visa to satisfy the relationship requirement in NZ, rather than losing this labour for months at a time, and possibly for good.
On top of that, nurses on student or working holiday visas weren't allowed to apply for the Resident 2021 visa, which would have given them the ability to apply for residence and stay in New Zealand.
We trained migrant nurses in our education system and shut them out of a residence programme as they were about to graduate.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of them left.
We've all heard the stories about entertainers and sports teams securing spots in MIQ.
Nothing for nurses though, many of whom withdrew their applications after months of waiting. Finally, after sustained pressure, the Government in November 2021 agreed to make places available.
Three months later, the Government scrapped MIQ.
Lastly, the fundamental flaw in our immigration policy is that nurses still aren't offered an immediate pathway to residency like they are in Australia – our main competitor for healthcare workers.
Here in New Zealand, doctors and engineers and even game developers are on the fast track - a move some have called out as sexist - but the Government claims that migrant nurses might stop nursing if they get residency. There is no evidence to support this.
New Zealand is short of 4000 nurses and is not incentivising them to come here.
The New Zealand Surgeons Association and Health New Zealand is calling for nurses to be added to the immigration green list.
The Government has failed to identify the stresses in our health system and the role immigration plays in mitigating the crisis in which New Zealand finds itself.
Timaru has closed 33 hospital-level beds, the Southern DHB has deferred all non-emergency and non-cancer-related surgeries at Dunedin and Southland Hospital, Wellington Hospital has also deferred non-emergency surgery, and screening programmes are hopelessly behind.
We rightly locked down rest homes and prioritised the elderly in our vaccination campaign, but we did nothing to stop 800 aged-care beds closing over the past 12 months due to a lack of nursing staff in aged-care facilities.
Other countries moved quickly on this. The offer of immediate residency was a game-changer for nurses all around the world.
Here in New Zealand, the Government was too busy rearranging the health system and moving bureaucrats around to act on acute health workforce shortages.
National is calling on the Government to ensure that migrant nurses and midwives are offered a fast-tracked pathway to residency, without having to wait two years.
If the Government is worried about nurses leaving the profession they could make it a condition that migrants must stay in the profession for two years.
But given their failure so far to change their immigration settings to better target critical workers I am not confident it will happen.
But for the sake of those needing healthcare, I certainly hope it does.
• Erica Stanford is the immigration spokeswoman for the National Party.