$500k overseas recruitment ad campaign called 'a failure' after just 3 people were interviewed

Newshub can reveal an ad campaign to recruit more health professionals from overseas cost more than half a million dollars and resulted in just three people being interviewed. 

Doctors said it's "really disappointing", while nurses labelled the campaign "a failure", with both sectors saying the money should have been spent elsewhere. 

The glitzy commercial intended to entice overseas health workers to our shores by emphasising why New Zealand is unique by showcasing our ski fields and beaches. But the results have been less than impressive.

Information obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act shows ads were put on Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, Google, Indeed.com and YouTube. In total, that cost more than $514,000 and that's not including video production or consultant costs. 

So what did we get for half a million?:

  • 668 people "expressed interest".
  • 44 were referred to the recruitment team.
  • Just three candidates have been interviewed. 

Royal New Zealand College of GPs medical director Dr Bryan Betty told Newshub it's a "really disappointing result".

"You'd expect more and I think questions have to be asked."

"It's had very little outcome. It's a significant amount of money," said NZ Nurses Organisation kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku.

The ad campaign started in November last year. 

"It's failed because it's failed to deliver on what I believe would have probably been the purpose," Nuku said. 

The purpose was to get desperately needed health professionals to come here. 

Executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Sarah Dalton said three interviews for $500,000 is not a "great return on investment".

And every sector told Newshub the money could've been better used elsewhere. Nuku told Newshub the money could have been used for training. 

"Supporting nurses to go through their training programme. That money could have been better utilised."

Dr Betty said funding for GPs needs an overhaul. 

"We've been asking the Government that this needs urgent looking at."

But Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said work to get more health staff in the country takes time.

"Indeed, we are making multiple efforts in terms of recruitment and it might take time for those to bear fruit."

Another way the Government is trying to get health staff in is via fast-tracked visa categories. 

Official information obtained by Newshub shows in the six months to February 10, 2019, nurses applied under the green list. But just one has arrived here.

A total 624 arrived using other visa categories, although about half of that number requires training. 

"So they're not workforce ready," Nuku said. 

In the six months till February 10, 11 GPs applied under the green list, but just one arrived under this category. 

A total 91 arrived using other categories. Thirty-three arrived under the Critical Purpose Visa and 58 on the Accredited Employer Visa.

"We need more general practitioners. I think the fundamental core issue is we need to be training more home-grown New Zealand general practitioners," Dr Betty said. 

Hospital specialists are also needed. But on the green list in the six months to February this year, one anesthetist, two surgeons, a dermatologist and one radiologist touched down in Aotearoa. 

The numbers are bolstered slightly when considering other visa categories, but it's hardly the solution. 

"Those numbers are feeble," Dalton said. 

And Dalton said foreign health workers talk to their Kiwi colleagues and know it's tough here.

"They're talking to their colleagues here. They're hearing the work is onerous, it is relentless. There are significant staffing gaps."

She said the key to attracting more staff is to make New Zealand an attractive place not just to live but to work as well. 

Health Minister Verrall told Newshub "it takes a long time" to convert interest from migrants into people working here. 

She said there are added complexities, like workers breaking their leases or selling their homes before flying out. 

Verrall added that while the ad campaign launched in November, it typically takes nine months to two years to recruit from overseas.