Wellington nurses on hunger strike

Matthews Jose, left, and Abin Mathai outside Wellington Railway station.
Matthews Jose, left, and Abin Mathai outside Wellington Railway station.

A group of Indian nurses are on hunger strike, saying they are prepared to die unless injustices against them are righted.

Buffeted by strong, cold winds and refusing any food or water, the eight nurses have been camped outside Wellington train station’s statue of Indian resistance leader Mohandas Gandhi since yesterday morning.

They believe they have been treated badly by the Nursing Council which has rejected their registration, though they thought they were qualified and believed others in the same position had been accepted.

The Nursing Council said each candidate was assessed on an individual basis.

Nurse Mathews Jose, 30, has been in New Zealand for more than four years and said he came to the country believing he could gain registration.

He had been working as a caregiver instead and believed the hunger strike was his last resort.

‘‘Until last year all the Indian nurses who came over here with the same qualifications have been accepted as registered nurses.’’

Mr Jose said he had not been offered any solution other than retraining, despite lengthy discussions.

He said he could not afford this option and if he was not qualified than other registered nurses with the same qualifications as him should be sent back to India.

Nursing Council chief executive and registrar Carolyn Reed said the council would write to the group in the hopes of finding a solution.

She said there had been a general tightening of rules regarding registration but this applied to everyone, no matter which country they were from. ‘‘I need to know who they are. They seem to think we need to deal with them as a group.’’

Ms Reed acknowledged those protesting may have been given false hope by their agents but said the council always made it clear that registration was not a given.

‘‘I think the Nursing Council is not without a degree of sympathy for these people in their individual situations but our role is to keep standards high in New Zealand.’’

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said yesterday that the hunger strike was an overreaction.

‘‘I think it’s a little extreme because the NZQA, the Nurses’ Council and the providers have been working together to find opportunities for those students to be able to potentially register or enrol as nurses in the New Zealand system.’’

He said the protest was concerning and he would encourage the group to talk with officials as a hunger strike wouldn’t change anything.

"From a wider New Zealand perspective we don’t want any suggestion that people have come here under one assumption and they are not able to train under that same assumption.’’

Contact Shabnam Dastgheib
Breaking news reporter
Email: shabnam.dastgheib@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @shab_d

The Dominion Post