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Migrant health screening implementation timeframe

17 March 2005

Migrant health screening implementation timeframe

The Department of Labour today announced a changed implementation timeframe for aspects of the new migrant health screening package.

As earlier announced, increased tuberculosis screening of migrants would be fully implemented as from April 4. However, the implementation of other additional health screening requirements also planned to roll out next month, have been deferred.

From next month, all potential migrants who are a high TB risk and are planning to be in New Zealand for six months or more, will be tested. The age at which TB screening is required will be lowered from 12 years to 11 years.

Potential migrants are considered a TB risk if they are a citizen of a country with a high incidence of the disease, or they have spent three months or more in a country with high TB rates in the past five years.

Department of Labour Deputy Secretary Workforce Mary Anne Thompson said next month’s TB screening changes follow a stepped approach. Screening of international students began in June 2004, followed by visitor and work visa applicants five months later in November 2004.

As from next month, the interim exemption granted to working holiday makers intending on being here for at least six months would be lifted.

Ms Thompson said the implementation of the remaining health screening requirements had been deferred following feedback received during consultation.

“Feedback from medical examiners on the revised medical screening requirements has prompted us to alter the timeframe so we can undertake more preparation to ensure changes are effectively implemented,” Ms Thompson says.

“The objective of the policy, to manage potential health risks of immigration, without discouraging potential migrants, remains unchanged. Our intention is to make sure that people migrating to New Zealand are healthy and aren’t likely to need expensive, or extensive medical care in the foreseeable future. The expected timeframe for further changes to be implemented is July, but this could change as we progress.”

Medical professionals and organisations involved with immigration are being advised of the changes. All information is on the website, and applicants are advised to visit www.immigration.govt.nz to access current information.

Background information

What are the current health and disability screening requirements? Potential migrants are required to undergo a medical examination to determine whether or not they have health conditions which are going to impose a burden on the publicly funded health system. As part of their medical examination, information is collected about the applicant’s medical history and a medical examination is undertaken and the results recorded. Some medical tests are also required – eg: a urine test and, for people over 15 years old, tests for syphilis and evidence of intestinal parasites or salmonella.

What are the changes on 4 April 2005? New tuberculosis screening requirements for migrants will be fully implemented so that all potential migrants from countries with high TB rates, or who have risk factors for TB will be tested.

The age at which screening for TB is required will be lowered from 12 to 11.

An exemption from screening, for temporary applicants with TB risk factors who intended being here for more than six months, ends on 4 April.

What were the other changes planned to come into effect on 4 April 2005? Applicants were going to be required to provide a medical examination, including a chest x-ray. The purpose was to help NZIS make informed decisions about whether or not applicants for entry into New Zealand have an acceptable standard of health.

The definition of ‘acceptable standard of health’ became more transparent to mean someone who is: unlikely to be a danger to public health unlikely to impose significant costs or excessive demands on our publicly funded health and special education services able to perform functions for which they have been granted entry.

As part of their medical examination, information was going to be collected about the applicant’s medical history and a medical examination was to be undertaken and the results recorded. In some cases, where health conditions were identified, specialist reports were also to be requested and included with the medical certificate – eg: signs of hearing problems - an audiologist’s report signs of bleeding disorders – a haematologist’s report signs of mental illness – a psychiatrist’s report.

The required medical tests were also going to be altered to require one blood sample (for people over 11 years old) and one urine sample (for people over 5 years old). This would enable tests for Hepatitis B and C, liver function, HIV, syphilis, serum creatinine (kidney failure).

We were also publishing a list of conditions that are known to impose significant costs or excessive demands on the publicly funded health and special education services. This included conditions such as severe haemophilia, chronic renal failure, HIV infection, cardiac disease, genetic or congenital disorders, central nervous system disease and malignancies of solid organs.

Why the change in timeframe for implementation of other parts of the policy? NZIS received feedback from medical examiners and other stakeholders that needs to be considered and may be potentially incorporated into the implementation. The NZIS has listened to this feedback and is taking time to consider it.

The objective of the policy – to protect public health in New Zealand and ensure that migrants do not impose excessive costs – remains unchanged.

Who have you consulted regarding implementation of the policy up until now? We consulted with organisations and agencies such as the Ministry of Health, the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, District Health Boards, Medical and specialist colleges and migrant groups.

Is further consultation planned? We expect to have targeted discussions on specific issues about which there are concerns.

What are you doing to inform potential migrants and health professionals of the changes? Letters are being sent to all key stakeholders with notices in relevant newsletters and publications. A media statement is being issued. Discussions are also being held with relevant groups.

Where do people go for more information? The NZIS website at www.immigration.govt.nz. In New Zealand people can telephone, free, our call centre on 0508 558 855


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