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Adequate number of nurses – just no funds

Adequate number of nurses – just no funds to place them.

New Zealand doesn’t have a nursing shortage – it has a placement problem.

Jo Wallis, Chief Executive of Geneva Health International, NZ’s largest health professional placement agency, says that she has more than enough nurses on her books to fill the permanent vacancies.

“We have the staff – but hospitals don’t have, or can’t find, the funds to recruit and place them.

“The nursing shortage isn’t an issue of whether or not nurses are available but rather a matter of looking at priorities. Hospitals need to look at the problem and who is best to manage it. They could achieve a better result by focussing on retention and succession planning, and access expertise for sourcing, rather than trying to do everything themselves.”

Ms Wallis believes that the reluctance to pay recruitment and placement fees is misplaced.

“There is always a cost involved with placing a nurse, whether hospitals use an internal HR department or an agency. This needs to be taken into consideration when funding is apportioned. Costs of advertising a specific role, and the hours involved locating and interviewing suitable candidates often hugely increases the cost of recruitment.”

In the longer term, Ms Wallis believes retention of staff is an issue – but that money is less important than job satisfaction, good working conditions, career opportunities and being valued.

“Salaries are all relative to cost of living, and I doubt there is a nurse in the UK, the US, Canada or Australia who considers her or himself well paid.

“Comparing New Zealand nurses’ incomes with international standards and taking into account that the money they earn then has to be spent in the same country, nurses here are not poorly paid.

“The only financial advantage for nurses and anybody else working overseas is to earn foreign currency and send it home. That way the exchange rate works in their favour.

“I’m not saying this is good – just that New Zealand is no different.”

Ms Wallis has recently provided a discussion paper to the Ministry of Health, which she says outlines some of the issues outside of the ‘popular’ salary focus.

“There is a short-term fix for nursing shortages, which includes international sourcing,” she believes. “New Zealand has major drawcards with our lifestyle, highly respected health system, and world-renowned tertiary training. There are also large numbers of New Zealand nurses who have completed their OE and are looking to return home.

“Again, the issue is not a shortage of nurses but of the funds and infrastructure to pay for recruitment.”

Ms Wallis says that the shortage in New Zealand is nothing compared with what is being experienced overseas. She also thinks the industry is probably heading towards a tiered structure, where skilled registered nurses will get scarcer and that increased demand will therefore drive salaries up. As tertiary qualified nurses move into roles with greater responsibilities (eg nursing prescribing rights) then the basic nursing tasks could be taken over by a second level of carer.

This winter, Geneva Health has launched a new initiative where the company employs nurses on contract, and places them where required around New Zealand. This means the nurses and other health professionals are guaranteed a regular income, and hospitals that need staff on temporary, contract or permanent basis have a co-ordinated pool from which to choose.

Geneva Health International is a New Zealand owned and operated company with offices in Auckland, Wellington, Sydney, Melbourne and London, and a presence in the US and Canada.


For further information, please contact
Josephine Wallis
Geneva Health International
tel 09 916 0200
email jow@genevahealth.com

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