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Our health workforce is critical to the continued delivery of healthcare services for our communities. We know they’ve been under significant pressure this winter thanks to rising Covid-19 cases, staff illness, and an early start to the flu season.
A number of initiatives were presented by the Minister of Health on Monday 1 August to relieve some of these pressures in the short-term by speeding up the supply and retention of our vital healthcare workforce.
The initiatives were recommendations from Te Whatu Ora’s Workforce Taskforce, chaired by National Workforce Lead Ailsa Claire.
These initiatives are a start toward moving more quickly in the right direction. They are also a good example of what can be achieved now that we are one unified health delivery service.
Te Whatu Ora is working in partnership with Te Aka Whai Ora Māori Health Authority and Manatū Hauora on these initiatives.
Te Aka Whai Ora also has a specific role to grow and support the Māori healthcare workforce right across our health system and people working in kaupapa Māori services. We know the current winter pressures have a high impact on Māori communities and Te Aka Whai Ora is working closely with Māori providers to ensure they are well supported.
The key initiatives and actions are:
Building an international recruitment centre within Te Whatu Ora
Te Whatu Ora will launch a new in-house recruitment centre for international healthcare professionals, with the initial offering expected to start in October.
This one stop shop will work with regional and district teams to provide coordinated international recruitment campaigns, as well as immigration and relocation support for international health workers.
The new recruitment centre will help to streamline processes for workers and their families and set them up for a successful and positive experience in their new home.
Real Nurses campaign
Real Nurses is a new domestic campaign showcasing the diversity and rewards of a nursing career, starting on 1 August. Aimed at attracting nurses back into the profession as well as young people, the campaign will run on social media, through digital advertising, and in partnership with Shortland Street.
See more on realnurses.co.nz
Supporting registration for internationally qualified health professionals
Te Whatu Ora is scoping a six-month bridging programme to support internationally qualified doctors from non-comparable health systems to enter the workforce.
The proposal includes a funded six-week clinical induction course to prepare post graduate students for clinical work and employment, followed by a three-month training internship.
This programme will better prepare New Zealand Registration Examination (NZREX) doctors and enhance successful integration into the New Zealand workforce. It is expected that the programme will provide a small, but useful, pool of 10 doctors to enter the workforce in mid-2023.
Funding will be made available for Internationally Qualified Nurses (IQNs) undertaking a Competence Assessment Programme (CAP) to gain registration in New Zealand.
Improving the GP training model and boosting numbers
Te Whatu Ora, Te Aka Whai Ora and the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners will be working together to review the GP training model to find ways to incentivise registrars and increase representation of Māori and Pacific registrars into GP training. Te Whatu Ora will be working with Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners (RNZCGP) to boost GP training numbers to 300 per year.
Growing the kaiāwhina workforce
Kaiāwhina is the overarching term for non-regulated roles in the health and disability sector such as healthcare assistants, kaimahi (Māori health workers) or mental health support workers.
Their work in primary care helped to ease the pressure on health professionals and allowed them to focus on their core work during the pandemic, especially in Māori and Pacific communities. We aim to start expanding the kaiāwhina service by the end of this year.
Return to Nursing fund extended
The first round of the Return to Nursing fund was run this year and will result in 200 nurses being supported financially to return to nursing. Funding will now be extended into 2023 to support more nurses to return to practice.
Increased funding for Nurse Practitioners
The number of Nurse Practitioners supported to enter the workforce will be doubled through increased funding of the Nurse Practitioners Training Programme. The programme currently supports 50 Nurse Practitioners per year, with a focus on mental health and addictions in primary health care.