Plumbers, but not cardiologists: the curious case of the green immigration list

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A senior doctor said immigration policy – or oversight – excludes a vast majority of senior medical specialists from the green list.
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Health and immigration are at odds, over which hospital doctors have been greenlisted with fast-track access to stay.

Cardiologists and paediatricians are not included in the “straight-line” jobs, nor in the two-year “work-from-home” jobs, which are offered to nurses, plumbers and mechanics.

A senior doctor said immigration policy – or oversight – excludes the vast majority of senior medical specialists from the green list.

Health Minister Andrew Little told RNZ on Wednesday that Immigration New Zealand was confused about the number of professions covered by the green list term “specialist doctor”.

“I think the Immigration Service has not understood some of the terms on the list at this point, so ‘specialist doctor’ covers a whole range of specialist positions and I think they now understand what that means.”

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Immigration New Zealand (INZ) yesterday provided RNZ with the roles of specialist greenlisted doctors, including allergists, sleep medics and sexual health doctors.

It said it had advised the immigration minister about the possible inclusion of additional specialist doctor roles and did not comment on Little’s suggestion that 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 was caught. “It’s amazing that after weeks of media coverage of the health worker crisis, the minister doesn’t know these specialists aren’t fast and just assume they were.

“It shows that he is completely out of touch with the crisis unfolding in the health workforce, which his government is in charge of.”

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Tauranga Hospital cardiologist Rob McIntosh and his wife Sarah Hartley, a hematologist consultant, are among those who could have applied for a greenlist stay if their role was included.

McIntosh said Little seemed to suggest that Immigration NZ had misinterpreted the category of specialist doctors.

“The category is very restrictive and applies to only a small number of the rarer medical subspecialties, such as clinical allergists, geneticists and immunologists among a small number of others.

“I suspect that the differences between medical sub-specialists have escaped the eye of the Immigration Department. By only including doctors ‘not elsewhere classified’ they have excluded the vast majority of consulting physicians from their program. This has obvious consequences and is disheartening specialists like ourselves of applying to come or stay in New Zealand.”

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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 major organ systems of the body.

“It is the complete omission of these categories from the green list that has precluded the vast majority of senior medical specialists from eligibility for Tier 1 or Tier 2 residency under the current program.”

Elsewhere on the green list are other doctors such as general practitioners, anesthesiologists and psychiatrists.

The Department of Trade, Innovation and Employment said it has advised Immigration Secretary Michael Wood on the possible inclusion of additional specialist doctor positions.

Earlier this week, a leaked advice from the Health Ministry urged adding 30 more jobs, including dentists and paramedics.