Australia waves $4.5 billion healthcare carrot threatening Aotearoa's staffing crisis

Aotearoa's healthcare workforce is already struggling with a staffing crisis, but now it faces a $4.5 billion threat. 

Australia's health system is overwhelmed and New South Wales (NSW) has just announced its biggest ever boost - $4.5 billion to recruit more than 10,000 staff, many of whom will be Kiwis. 

Aussie is hungry for healthcare workers and New Zealand is a prime target, but New Zealand Nurses Organisation's (NZNO) Kerri Nuku says Aotearoa is facing its own staffing shortage. 

"It's a crisis out there."

New Zealand College of Midvies Alison Eddy echoed that worry. 

"It's really concerning."

And the recruitment drive from NSW puts extra pressure on the Government. 

"We've got a real threat with investment across the ditch into health workforce, and we've got a frailing system that is underresourced. The Government has to decide what it's going to do," Nuku said. 

Eddy told Newshub that when Aotearoa's borders opened, movement across the ditch had begun. 

"We've very aware that some are poised ready to go and with [the] deliberate campaign we're likely to see more."

Australia's new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has already said he wants much more health staff, and now NSW has announced an unprecedented $4.5 billion package to recruit more than 10,000 doctors, nurses and other health staff. 

"It's an acknowledgement about the need to invest in people."

Nurses, midwives and the aged care sectors are among a few already significantly short-staffed here. They're also sectors that can easily register to work in Australia where they'll earn more. 

"The recruitment packages on offer appear to be very, very attractive, and very favourable," said Eddy. 

Newshub spoke to one ED nurse who is considering handing in her resignation to head for Australia. Her Kiwi colleagues working there are encouraging her too and say they are being paid triple. 

The woman said it's not only about the money but a feeling of burnout here in New Zealand because of the lack of staff and the enormous pressure at work.

"Absolutely nurses are fatigued and burnt out, that is very real, it won't take much, just wait for those nurses to walk away," Nuku added. 

The Government put $11 billion into the sector in the last Budget, and Health Minister Andrew Little said the NZNO walked away from a fair pay offer late last year. 

"The hospitals and the Government are doing everything we can to increase recruitment, and to increase remuneration, the nurse's organisation is not playing its part."

Little added Australia has a bigger need. 

"The Australian system, particularly NSW, was hugely understaffed. That's why their hospital system was overwhelmed during COVID."

NZNO told Newshub there is a global shortage of health workers, and if New Zealand nurses aren't looked after they'll head offshore.