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“I love this country”: American doctors travel to New Zealand to cure America’s ailments | World news

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When Dalilah Restrepo, then a New York-based doctor, clicked an email in 2018 asking if she was looking to experience something overseas, she was skeptical. And then I opened it, and I was like New Zealand? Gosh, this is a little drastic.

Restrepo, who had been in private practice for 10 or 11 years, was exhausted.

The health care system in the United States is really toxic, she said. Disparities in health and moral injuries caused burnout among her peers, she said, and before suggesting that he leave the United States, she had considered quitting her profession altogether.

In March 2019, Restrepo joined a growing number of healthcare professionals from the United States who are relocating to New Zealand. They come with admiration for a society that values ​​scientific knowledge, what they see as the progressive political ideals of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the pristine landscapes made famous by Peter Jacksons’ films The Lord of the Rings.

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Everyone was like, you’re going to heaven right? Were really jealous, Restrepo said.

The number of American doctors aspiring to such an initiative, according to recruiting firms in the United States and New Zealand, has increased significantly since the Covid-19 pandemic. With their sought-after skills, they are among the few professions capable of gaining entry to a country whose passport according to an index this month is the most powerful in the world.

Some of the requests come from changes in their own jobs due to Covid, said Chad Saley, spokesperson for Global Medical Staffing, a US-based company that places American doctors abroad. Others are interested in working there due to the country’s positive response to Covid.

I love this country and I have never been bored

Dalilah Restrepo

New Zealand has drawn praise from around the world after appearing to suppress the spread of Covid-19, twice with just over 1,500 cases and 25 deaths. On the night of Donald Trump’s debate with Joe Biden this month, Google is investigating how we could escape to New Zealand.

Following Trump’s election in November 2016, New Zealand immigration officials said requests from Americans on their website had increased 24-fold. After the March 2019 terror attack in Christchurch, in which New Zealanders responded widely with empathy and compassion, interest surged again.

The nation holds a lot of mystery and allure, added Saley. Since the government locked down the country in March in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, New Zealand has been the most popular country for its business customers and interest has skyrocketed, he said.

Even the New Zealand immigration agency website seems pointed in its speech to American citizens: Looking for a change? It reads. Somewhere more relaxed, in a peaceful country where people take care of each other with services like subsidized health care?

But most aspiring residents would not be allowed to relocate due to Covid-19; the country’s strict border controls only allow New Zealanders and their families to get there and even some in this category have been unable to obtain visas. Doctors can apply for a special exemption if their skills are in demand in New Zealand.

Restrepo, a shortage infectious disease specialist, has moved to the small rural town of Palmerston North; It is not the most picturesque or glamorous place in New Zealand and sometimes the butt of urban jokes. She didn’t care.

Everyone said, from New York to Palmy, you’re gonna die there, she said, using a local slang term for Palmerston North. You never go to see the culture, you are a foodie, you love restaurants and shopping, what are you going to do there?

But Restrepo said she hadn’t missed anything from her old life. I love this country and have never been bored.

When the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in New Zealand, Restrepo, who was due to return home after a year, decided to stay and serve her adopted homeland. She hoped the move would one day become permanent, although she added that a recent trip to the United States where her daughter was undergoing surgery underscored the difficulty of moving to an isolated country with closed borders, where the northern hemisphere is a full day. travel far.

Yet, she says, friends and strangers are constantly asking her to move to New Zealand. And upon entering the United States on his recent visit, even one border official got excited.

Before I knew it I had a circle around me in JFK, and everyone was like, New Zealand, are you from New Zealand ?, Restrepo said. Everyone just wanted to know New Zealand.

Others have similar stories. Judy Melinek, author and forensic pathologist who moved to Wellington in July, was motivated by the country’s successes against Covid-19. In the United States, her kids went to school online and missed their friends; Melinek said she faced a reckless disregard for workplace safety protocols (shortly after moving to New Zealand a former colleague caught the virus and died).

I had never been to New Zealand before moving here, but it was still on my list of places I would love to go, she says. I’ve met Kiwis in the past and they’re the nicest people, and I’ve watched all the Lord of the Rings movies.

But the move had always been extremely difficult; she and her husband had left their adult children behind.

You do it when you feel like you really don’t have a choice, Melinek said.

Judy Melinek, author and medical examiner who moved to Wellington from the United States. Photograph: provided

There are definitely more people looking to come here permanently, said Kate McKendry, spokesperson for New Zealand-based medical recruiting company NZDr; most of them were Americans.

Processing visa and medical registration formalities often took six months or more, she said, so any growth in arrivals from the Covid-19 pandemic would not be fully quantifiable until 2021. L The immigration agency could not provide figures on the number of foreign medical professionals who had been granted visa exemptions since New Zealand closed its borders.

Melinek said the successes of New Zealanders against the coronavirus could translate into booms in some industries.

The inability of the United States to properly treat Covid-19 and the ensuing economic collapse that we live in will drive not only doctors but other executives and entrepreneurs to leave the country, she said. Anyone with a graduate degree and international relations is already looking at other countries, if they haven’t already left.

In some American reports, New Zealand has taken on the air of a fairy tale; an article published by a Florida online news site this week described the benefits of relocating abundant housing to New Zealand (the country is plagued by a housing shortage, with median house prices around seven times the median income), temperate climates (it depends on where you live) and sheep everywhere (not really).

But no problem has deterred the Americans. It’s not perfect, but he’s trying to be, says Restrepo, from his adopted home. He gets points for it.

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