Visa difficulties are complicating Waikato DHB efforts to regain its training accreditation.
The health board was stripped of its accreditation for obstetrics and gynaecology in December 2015 after failing to meet three of seven standards set by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG).
The loss impacted the Women’s Health service and meant the board was not able to train junior doctors.
Waikato DHB Women’s Health Commissioner Tanya Maloney told board members on Wednesday the most significant risk to regaining RANZCOG accreditation was the absence of a strong, well respected clinical unit leader.
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Recruitment efforts had been unsuccessful to date.
RANZCOG officials had signalled they expect a clinical unit leader to be appointed before any decision is made to reinstate accreditation, Maloney said.
“It’s our biggest risk and our biggest priority,” she said.
In addition, Maloney said the Women’s Health service had expected to be fully staffed with senior doctors by April but visa issues had complicated the recruitment of overseas staff.
She said the service recently lost a “very competent” senior doctor from the United Kingdom because her son was refused a visa.
Maloney said she granted the doctor leave of absence rather than accept her resignation.
The doctor was now pursuing a different route in an effort to gain a visa for her son.
Waikato DHB chairman Bob Simcock said it appeared the doctor was given bad advice at the “front end” of the immigration process.
In another case, Maloney said the recruitment of a doctor from the UK had been delayed due to the length of time taken to secure a residency visa.
“There’s nothing out of the ordinary, he’s lived in numerous different countries so there are checks and things,” Maloney said.
Board member and retired cardiologist Clyde Wade said the Medical Council of New Zealand required doctors to provide certificates of good standing from the places they’ve worked.
“In some places the structures aren’t that good and this is a big problem for us in recruiting,” Wade said.
“We’re not quick enough … and people give up and go somewhere else.”
If health professionals were having trouble getting visas there were plenty of strings that could be pulled, Wade said.
Board member Martin Gallagher said it was critical people were given the correct advice when first applying to work or live in New Zealand.
“That’s your key message for recruiting anyone overseas,” Gallagher said.