Sarah Parekh completed her nursing degree in Perth, is registered and wants to join the frontline fight against the coronavirus outbreak, treating patients in a public hospital.
- The nurses’ union is calling for visa restrictions to be eased
- Australia is allowing 20,000 nursing students to work in the health system
- WA Health minister Roger Cook said he would appeal to lift the visa rules
But she is not allowed to because she is from Germany and not a permanent resident or citizen.
“I’m a registered nurse, I’m registered with our AHPRA [the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency],” she said.
“I’m a fully qualified nurse, so yeah I’ve got all the skills that a nurse needs to help out at the moment.
“I definitely would like to support Western Australia in this big coronavirus crisis.”
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Restrictions lifted on nursing students
Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced restrictions were being lifted on some 20,000 international nursing students working in the health system.
It means they can work more than 40 hours per fortnight, doing simple tasks and freeing up experienced nurses.
WA COVID-19 snapshot
- Confirmed cases so far: 278
- Deaths: 2
- Tested negative: 12,693
Latest information from the WA Health Department
“They’re going to be available to support the health effort right across the country, as directed by our health officials,” the Prime Minister explained at a media conference on March 18.
But when Ms Parekh tried to apply for a job with WA Health, there was a check box requiring candidates to be permanent residents or citizens.
“Why is Australia letting their 20,000 international nursing students work full time, but don’t make it possible for their already qualified and graduated international nurses to help?” she asked.
“If there are 20,000 international student nurses, there must be an equivalent of 20,000 international graduates with full qualification here as well.”
‘This is a no-brainer’
She called for the criteria to be eased and in a letter to WA Premier Mark McGowan requested nurses be added to the graduate state sponsorship list, under which the WA Government can nominate them for a skills visa.
“May I please ask you to review the graduate state sponsorship list, so that registered graduate nurses like me, who have been a part of this community for years and would like to support and strengthen this state with our skills, can join the WA health workforce now that we are so strongly needed,” she wrote.
Australian Nursing Federation state secretary Mark Olsen said international graduates like Ms Parekh would be a “wonderful asset” at the moment and there was no question they should be allowed to work.
Mark Olsen says it is clear that qualified health workers should be allowed to work. (ABC News: Glyn Jones)
“This is a no-brainer,” he said.
“If we’ve got those who have done their education in nursing education in this country, they’ve recently qualified, then the Government should be putting the call out and saying, ‘Listen, call our office and we’ll arrange to make sure that you find you’re able to work as a part-time or full-time employee’.”
Health Minister says it’s ‘all hands on deck’
Nurses were recently taken off the state sponsorship list because local graduates were struggling to find work.
But Mr Olsen said that was not the case anymore.
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“We have to be able to respond if we’re going to meet the challenges of this crisis, we’ve got to be flexible,” he said.
Health Minister Roger Cook said it was “all hands on deck” when it came to fighting COVID-19.
“We’ll take anyone that’s got the qualifications and is ready to give it a go,” Mr Cook said.
“If there are nurses or doctors that don’t fit exactly inside the [visa] arrangements, we’ll certainly be making representations to the Commonwealth to make sure we can help them join our forces.”
The Prime Minister’s office and the Home Affairs Department have been contacted for comment.
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