Too long a wait for immigrant doctors
The Government's announcement of a training package for overseas doctors comes far too late and still leaves some questions unanswered, Labour health spokesperson Annette King said.
"The problem of immigrant doctors being unable to get New Zealand registration has existed for a long time. Many were enticed to immigrate to New Zealand under false pretences.
"National could have taken action in 1994 when Labour told the government of the problems with the immigration policy. They did nothing. National could have taken action in 1997 when some of the frustrated doctors took the Crown to court, but failed to do so. It told the immigrant doctors their skills could be 'transferred' to other jobs.
"Finally an attempt to tackle the problem has emerged, just three weeks from the election. While National has been playing political games, an estimated 200 immigrant doctors have been left languishing on the dole or stacking supermarket shelves.
"MPs from across party lines put a package to the Minister well over a year ago which included access to student loans for immigrant doctors needing to retrain. There is no mention of this in National's much-delayed announcement.
"National has come up with no new money and has made no significant changes to the process. Overseas doctors still have to sit and pass the same Medical Council exams that have proved such a barrier to those who do not have English as their first language.
"Now they can receive 'training assistance' but in return will be bonded to work in rural areas. National wants to use the immigrants to patch up its own failure to support rural health services.
"National has a nine-year record of failure in the health sector. Last minute attempts to fix one or two of the problems will not fool the voters," Annette King said.