NZ health sector may see influx of US doctors after abortion ruling

A woman makes her feelings over the US Supreme Court decision overturning abortion rights
A woman makes her feelings over the US Supreme Court decision overturning abortion rights clear during a protest march in New York City. Image: RNZ/AFP

By Leah Tebbutt, RNZ News reporter

An Aotearoa New Zealand health workforce recruiting agency is fielding calls from senior US doctors who say they can no longer live in their own country.

Accent Health Recruitment has been flooded with inquiries from US doctors wanting to come to New Zealand following the US Supreme Court’s decision overturning abortion rights last Friday.

The ruling has made access to abortions all but impossible in at least 18 states.

Accent Health Recruitment managing director Prudence Thomson said she normally got about 30 inquiries a day but that had doubled since the ruling.

“The emotion and frustration attached to their email, you could just feel it. They’re saying, ‘we can no longer live in this country, we need to come, will you have us in New Zealand?’

“It was quite an emotional tug, as far as of people really wanting to leave and throwing their hands in the air.”

Thomson said most inquiries were from GPs and obstetricians.

‘A spike in inquiries’
“There has been quite a spike in inquiries from them — they’re really passionate about looking after their patients and now they no longer are able to provide the healthcare they want,” she said.

“So they want to come to New Zealand to practise, which is good for New Zealand.”

Thomson said while it was sad these health workers felt forced morally to leave, it would help this country’s health worker “crisis”.

However, she said it would take at least six months before the American health professionals could work in New Zealand.

“Every medical professional needs to get their qualifications verified to come to New Zealand and that takes from three to six months.

“While we want to speed it up we don’t want to cut corners because in a crisis that’s when the weaknesses will be exposed and that’s when the people who want to commit identity fraud could get through.”

However, she said it should still give the chronically understaffed health sector some hope that help was coming.

Messaging about jobs
US nurse McKenzie Mills recently moved to New Zealand and said former colleagues had been messaging her about jobs ever since the US Supreme Court ruled against abortion.

She said she was heartbroken and angry after the ruling.

However, she said she was even more sure now that her decision to move to New Zealand in January was the right one.

“I take care of people and it just really broke my heart that there is so much health care that will be denied to millions of women.”

Mills said she felt like she had “escaped” her own country as a result of the ruling.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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