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Indian nurses threaten to go on hunger strike

Published: 3:18PM Wednesday May 23, 2012 Source: ONE News

Fed-up Indian nurses are threatening to go on a hunger strike after being told they do not have the qualifications to work in New Zealand.

More than 100 Indian nurses today staged a protest outside Parliament.

TV ONE's Close Up programme revealed last week that some Indian nurses come here on the false hope that they will find work, only to be turned away by the Nursing Council which says their Indian diplomas do not meet New Zealand standards.

The Qualifications Authority told Close Up last week that it had launched an investigation into the recruitment of Indian nurses and what promises were made to them when they were brought here by New Zealand polytechnics.

The nurses, who have spent up to $17,000 on postgraduate study in New Zealand, are pleading for the Government to step in.

And they say if they are not granted registration they will go on an indefinite hunger strike next month.

Mathews Jose is a qualified nurse from India who was recruited for an English course at NMIT in Nelson, which he passed.

He applied to register with the Nursing Council but was declined, as his Indian diploma did not meet New Zealand standards.

"I'll be the first one to do the hunger strike," he said.

The nurses have trained and worked on hospital wards in India.

"We have got at least two or three years experience in our own country and we have proved that we can do this job," Matthews said.

Rule changes

There are already hundreds of Indian nurses working in NZ hospitals. They say their Indian diplomas are internationally recognised and the Nursing Council is making inconsistent decisions.

The council recently tightened up its rules, making it tougher for foreign nurses to register. It turns away more than a quarter of foreign nurses and makes no apologies for it.

The council puts the blame on education providers for bringing in the students without checking their qualifications.

"We advise people directly - do not come to New Zealand until you've been accepted for registration," Carolyn Reed, the chief executive of the Nursing Council, told Close Up last week.

The council declined ONE News' interview request today, saying it is in talks with students.

Tim Fowler, the NZQA deputy chief executive, said an investigation is underway into education providers Waiariki Institute of Technology, UCOL Institute of Technology and NMIT into their admission processes for international students and the information provided around qualifications.

The polytechnics say they have not misled the students.

UCOL said it accepts that its course is not a pathway for students to become registered nurses. But it says it makes that clear in its marketing material.

Like UCOL, NMIT says it makes it clear to nurses what is required to become registered before they come to the country.

There is growing concern in India about the nurses' plight.

"It's crazy if we're promoting nursing opportunities, education opportunities offshore but after students qualify they can't get registered in New Zealand. That needs to be sorted out," education consultant Dave Guerin said.

Every year, 90,000 foreign students come to New Zealand, bringing in a staggering $2 billion. The largest group of students come from India.