True Story by Kelly

Kelly, Nelson

Mandated out of Job

An Osteopath and Woman’s Health Practitioner, now mandated out of work. It was a dream of mine to move to our family with three beautiful children to New Zealand. After being here a year and much hard work to get my qualifications recognised, I cant believe I am now mandated out of working. The mandates have had a devastating effect on the NZ Health Care system as well as to our local Osteopathy Clinic in Nelson. Not to mention the trauma our teenage kids went through when the vaccine passes came out.

My name is Kelly, and this is my true story.

Kia ora,

I am an Osteopath. I trained in the UK (a four-year honours degree) and am a specialist women’s health practitioner having studied a further two years to obtain my postgraduate diploma. We (family of 5) moved to NZ at the end of February 2020. This was a culmination of much hard work on our part and the realisation of a childhood dream for me personally.

My postgraduate training in the UK is highly regarded and is not yet available in New Zealand. In fact, in New Zealand you only have one course left for Osteopathy with many new grads leaving for Australia on completion of their degree. The vast majority of Osteopaths in New Zealand are UK trained. New Zealand is always short of Osteopaths and vacancies remain unfilled for many months.

The chances of now recruiting from countries that have not mandated their allied health professionals are even slimmer given many professionals will not wish to relocate from a non-mandated country to a mandated one in their professional spheres.

I have hopes of teaching the skills I have acquired in the UK to be of benefit not only to the people of New Zealand but also health professionals with a strong interest in Women’s Health who wish to further their knowledge in this field, thus increasing the benefit to the overall health of New Zealanders.

In Nelson, we were the biggest practice of osteopaths in the top of the south with seven osteopaths, one acupuncturist, two massage therapists and a reiki therapist. We were an extremely busy practice with a couple of weeks waiting list and for some practitioners, much longer.

The mandates have annihilated this practice. Seven practitioners left with the mandates, including the boss, a highly acclaimed local Osteopath who has served his community for decades. This gentleman has become a close friend and it is not in his nature to speak up. His wife also lost her job with the DHB and his son and daughter in law were teachers in Wellington who also lost their jobs and had to relocate to Nelson to live with their parents as they could no longer afford to rent. What a travesty. I will not further disclose regarding them, but they are a prime example of many families I have witnessed struggling through and traumatised by these times.

It is traumatic for me to sit here and write this down. We do not wish to draw attention to ourselves, and we are hurting. I have worked so hard to get to where I am (where I was) and in one foul swoop, it has been taken away from me. Years and years of study with my one wish, that I better myself for the betterment of others. It is a joy to be of service to others.

Prior to the mandates, I was regularly helping women with prolapse, painful periods, pain during intercourse, pain during pregnancy, incontinence, endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, the list goes on. The mandates have taken away this service. A service already lacking in New Zealand. I was so well received on arrival here and clearly needed.

Do you know, as an overseas Osteopath wishing to the register with the Osteopathic Council New Zealand, you must pay ($3600) for CAPP which is a Competent Authority Pathway Program. It is a year long transition program. It is a lot of work. It involves learning about the healthcare system in New Zealand. It involves a lot of case studies, talking with other practitioners and a lot of continued professional development. We are assessed at every step by a preceptor.

My starting this year long course was delayed by the first lockdown (March 2020). I did not waste any time during that first lockdown though. On arrival to New Zealand, we are given a couple of years to complete 100 hours compulsory learning with the ARA Institute covering Infant, Child and Adolescent protocols and health risks in New Zealand. I paid for and completed this during the first lockdown.

I did eventually start my CAPP and finished June 2021. I passed this with flying colours. Scoring top marks throughout. My preceptor, on my final award told me how lucky New Zealand and the profession was to have a practitioner of my standing here.

Five months later, I was deemed unsafe to work. Horrifying.

I am the main money earner. It has been extraordinarily stressful. I allowed myself to cry the week of the mandates. I have not cried since as I fear I will not stop. I have been in pure survival mode.

It is heart-breaking that people think the mandates are over and they are so not. So many affected families. Good, hardworking, professional families.

I will not go into detail the pain that our teenage children went through during the vax passport phase. What they have witnessed and endured. That is another story. What this government has shown them though, is that you can work your arse off to better yourself and have it taken away from you. Just like that. For your personal health choices. My heart breaks.

To add to the sheer insanity of it all, my family and I have already had Covid19 in March/April 2020 and again in March 2022. I applied to Otago University when they were asking for research applicants that had already had Covid prior to this outbreak but did not hear back from them. This was just prior to the second lockdown. That I am still deemed unfit for work is ridiculous.

I feel too traumatised by these events to attempt to apply for an exemption based on having had Covid. What if the rules do not change by the end of the three months exemption period? Will me and my family have to go through this again?

But then, a glimmer of hope:

In March 2022, the government highlighted the option of narrowing the healthcare mandates. This provides an excellent opportunity for all allied health professionals (which includes osteopaths, chiropractors, physiotherapists, pharmacists, podiatrists, dentists, opticians and many more) to return to working and helping their communities.  This is especially the case, when:

  1. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated healthcare workers can transmit COVID-19 (Kampf, 2021).
  2. Healthcare mandates claim to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 for “vulnerable populations”. The majority of the allied health workforce do not work with clients who are “vulnerable”. Injury does not equate to illness or poor health. Those who work in a District Health Board setting could be considered to work with vulnerable people, but this is a very different demographic from clients who are seen by allied health professionals in small, private sector community-based businesses.
  3. The healthcare mandates were announced in September 2021 and established in November 2021, when Delta was the worldwide dominant strain. The situation is now very different, with the mild Omicron COVID-19 strain and therefore requires a different approach. The UK, who never mandated their healthcare workers, is now dropping all PPE requirements and life, as I understand from my colleagues abroad, is very much returned to normal.
  4. A final point is to compare the working conditions for a non-mandated hairdresser and a mandated allied health professional, such as an Osteopath.  They would both work in close-proximity with the general public and see a similar number of people during the day. Vulnerable people are fully integrated and functioning in society, and so a small proportion of the people hairdressers help would also come under this category. Interestingly, hairdressers can work without any extra COVID-19 prevention measures (such as COVID-19 screening), but allied healthcare professionals are still mandated not to work.

Overall, New Zealand needs to ‘learn to live with COVID-19’ and therefore the government’s response to mandates also needs to reflect this. There are extensive solutions for how healthcare mandates can be narrowed and presented to the Government, in order to prevent unnecessary and indefinite unemployment. By taking a focus on ending mandates for allied health professionals, using logical and common-sense strategies, it will get many healthcare professionals back into the workforce and assist in offloading the struggling New Zealand healthcare system.

Why has there been no further discussion of narrowing the mandates?

It is our biggest hope that New Zealand sees sense regarding the health mandates and that I can once again serve my community. A community now struggling with a severe lack of ACC registered professionals to help them. A job for which I have worked extremely hard for, am highly trained for and more than capable of carrying out safely.

Ngā mihi

Kelly MacNeill

Kelly MacNeill B.Ost (Hons), PGDip WHOst

 

References:

Kampf, G. (2021). The epidemiological relevance of the COVID-19-va**inated population is increasing (thelancet.com) Accessed 22.04.22.