CATHOLIC Health Australia is calling on the new Health Minster post-election to introduce urgent and high-impact reforms to fill 82,156 hospital and aged care vacancies, after a new study revealed the startling detail of the national health staffing crisis for the first time.
The new research, conducted by Evaluate and the University of Notre Dame and commissioned by Catholic Health Australia, reveals some 23,089 vacancies in hospitals and 59,067 in aged care.
The research was conducted by drawing on survey data from Catholic health providers across Australia and extrapolating figures for the entire Australian health system. Among the findings:
- 12,065 registered nurse vacancies in Australian hospitals
- 1454 midwife vacancies in Australian hospitals
- 3891 support staff vacancies in Australian hospitals
- 45,561 qualified aged care worker vacancies in the aged care system
- 1760 registered nurse vacancies in the aged care system
"I think Australians know there is a shortage of health workers in our system, but I don't think many understand just how enormous this problem has grown," said Catholic Health Australia chief executive Pat Garcia.
"The researchers in this study were actually conservative in their modelling, so there's a chance the real numbers are even higher than these startling figures.
"Our hospitals and aged care providers just cannot go on with this acute understaffing. The situation right now is totally unsustainable.
"If these numbers don't shock the new Federal Health Minister, I don't know what will."
Mr Garcia called on the incoming Health Minister to urgently champion a range of reforms to help alleviate the crisis.
"We need to expedite the process for healthcare workers to get into Australia and get them to work. There's currently far too much red tape and it's putting people off," Mr Garcia said.
"In a competitive global market we also need to think about incentives like organising housing, school placements, and childcare for newly arrived health workers and their families – anything to make their lives easier and lessen the burden of moving here. We also need to remove visa and registration costs for both health workers and their families. And we must offer a solid and certain path to residency — the importance of this factor cannot be overstated.
"We also need the government to ensure and make affordable flexible, out of hours childcare options for healthcare workers. We have put a range of suggested childcare reforms on the table for the government, but what is clear is that reform is now urgent.
"We should also look at reforming nurse training practices to get nurses into hospitals and aged care facilities sooner. Obviously we also need to fund and incentivise more university and TAFE places, but this pipeline will take time and we need reform that will deliver results sooner as well."
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