The departure of a well-liked doctor has led to the Ōtaki Medical Centre closing its books to new patients.
Dr Harding Richards returned to the UK in June after difficulties obtaining permanent residency in New Zealand.
Ōtaki Medical Centre chief executive Kiwa Raureti says that with the consequent pressure on medical staff, the centre is accepting patient registrations for new-borns only, at least until a new doctor is appointed. It will mean newcomers and those not currently registered in Ōtaki will need to seek medical attention at practices elsewhere. Many nearby are also short-staffed, and there are limited public transport options for people needing to go out of town.
Ōtaki Medical Centre now has two-and-a-half fulltime equivalent GPs (four part-time and one trainee). It also has 1.6 fulltime equivalent nurse practitioners for a practice population of about 6500 people.
Kiwa says Harding could not get residency for himself and his partner.
“Residency allows significant benefits, including leaving and re-entering the country.”
Harding came to New Zealand with his partner in 2018 and made an “expression of interest” as a skilled migrant for residency in March last year. However, the Government stopped accepting expressions of interest on April 1.
Kiwa says Harding was keen to stay, but with his future uncertain and unable to do things like buy a house, Harding felt he had no choice but to return to the UK.
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said in a statement recently the Government was seeking advice on when and how to re-open selection. Ōtaki MP Terisa Ngobi said in her Ōtaki Today column (page 14) that she was hopeful Harding and his partner would return, as her office had provided information to Immigration that would make this pathway possible.