Health and immigration are at odds over which hospital doctors have been given a green list fast-track to residence.
Cardiologists and paediatricians do not appear among the ‘straight to residence’ jobs, nor on the two-year ‘work to residence’ jobs, offered to nurses, plumbers and mechanics.
A senior doctor said the immigration policy – or oversight – excluded the vast majority of senior medical specialists from the green list.
Health minister Andrew Little told RNZ on Wednesday that Immigration New Zealand had been confused about the number of professions covered by the green list term “specialist physician”.
“I think Immigration haven’t understood some of the terms on the list that it is at the moment, so ‘specialist physician’ covers a whole range of specialist positions and I think they now understand what that means.”
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) yesterday provided RNZ with the green list specialist physician roles which includes allergists, sleep medicine and sexual health physicians.
It said it had provided the immigration minister with advice on the possible inclusion of additional specialist physician roles and did not comment on Little’s suggestion INZ had misunderstood the category.
Little had previously told parliament – under questioning from National Party MP Erica Stanford – that roles such as oncologists and cardiologists were already on the list.
She said he had been caught out. “It is astonishing that after weeks of media attention on the crisis in the health workforce, the Minister doesn’t know that these specialists are not fast-tracked and simply assumed that they were.
“It shows he is completely out of touch with the crisis unfolding in the health workforce, which his government has presided over.”
Tauranga hospital cardiologist Rob McIntosh and his wife Sarah Hartley, a consultant haematologist, are among those who could have applied for green list residence if it included their roles.
McIntosh said Little seemed to imply that Immigration NZ had misinterpreted the specialist physician category.
“The category is highly restrictive and applies to only a small number of the rarer medical sub-specialties, examples being clinical allergists, geneticists, and immunologists among a small number of others.
“I suspect that the differences between medical sub-specialists has escaped the eye of the immigration department. By only including physicians ‘not elsewhere classified’ – they have excluded the vast majority of consultant physicians from their programme. This has quite obvious ramifications is discouraging specialists such as ourselves from applying to come to, or from staying in New Zealand.”
He said, “The larger core of medical subspecialties includes specialists in gastroenterology, respiratory, renal medicine and cardiology, i.e., the specialties that deal with the body’s major organ systems.
“It is the complete omission of these categories from the green list that has excluded the vast majority of senior medical specialists from eligibility for either Tier 1 or Tier 2 residency under the current programme.”
Elsewhere on the green list, other doctors such as GPs, anaesthetists and psychiatrists are included.
Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment said it has provided the immigration minister Michael Wood with advice on the possible inclusion of additional specialist physician roles.
Earlier this week, a leaked Ministry of Health advice urged 30 more jobs should be added, including dentists and paramedics.