Ministry of Health is working on work permits and fulfilling other requirements to bring in expat health professionals to fill local jobs.
About 30 medical professionals are being recruited by Te
Marae Ora health ministry to fill key roles at local hospitals.
According to health spokesperson Jaewynn McKay, the ministry
is recruiting 14 nurses and other health professionals like doctors,
anaesthetist, lab technician, radiographer and physiotherapists from Fiji.
In total, McKay says they are hoping to recruit up to 25 to
30 people to fill these key roles.
The 14 nurses comprise of 13 registered nurses and a nurse
practitioner. A nurse practitioner has also been recruited from Australia.
Te Marae Ora has recruited a public health specialist from
New Zealand who will commence work next week.
McKay said: “The human resource team at Te Marae Ora is in
the process of confirming Immigration Cook Islands/work permit requirements and
clearances in Fiji.”
“We also require medical clearances for spouses and
immunisation records for children, before confirming travel and then MIQ
(managed isolation and quarantine) requirements in Auckland which the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs and Immigration is assisting with.”
The recruitment has been welcomed by the Opposition MP
Selina Napa, who is also the Health shadow minister.
Napa said the shortage of doctors has been felt in her
Titikaveka constituency’s medical centre which has a doctor present for two
hours once a week.
“It’s not enough time to see everyone, there are mums with
babies, our elderly who come at 8am and wait for two hours only to be turned
away because the doctor is needed somewhere else,” Napa said.
“We have requested longer hours and to have a doctor at the
medical centre twice a week, but with the shortage of doctors on the island,
this just isn’t possible.”
Napa has suggested to the government to reprioritise some
areas of spending, and focus on attracting the best health professionals to
work in the Cook Islands by offering good salary packages.
“Underfunding of our health ministry is unacceptable.”
She added it was positive development that health professionals
are being brought in to help alleviate the current shortage.
Earlier in the year, the Ministry of Health advertised 15
vacant positions that included doctors and nurses.
McKay earlier said the vacancy positions change on a
periodic basic as vacancies become known.
With a number of nurses and doctors who have recently
returned home or left for better opportunity’s overseas, McKay said: “People
leave positions for a number of reasons, these include, training opportunities
for employees and/or their families (children), experience, and career
progression; returning to live with loved ones; retirement; change of career or
other personal reasons.”
Te Marae Ora Cook Islands Health Ministry has long had an
association with medical practitioners and health professionals from New
Zealand (including the Pacific and Europe) – “some of whom choose to undertake
electives here, or come here to provide health specialist services”.
McKay added closed borders “largely delayed” some of these
people from entering the Cook Islands.