health reform

Nov 13, 2012

A call for courage on health workforce reform


Melissa Sweet — Health journalist and <a href=Croakey co-ordinator" class="author__portrait">

Melissa Sweet

Health journalist and Croakey co-ordinator

The problems that result from having an overly specialised and maldistributed health workforce have been hot topics at Health Workforce Australia’s inaugural conference, according to Twitter reports.

You can follow the conference tweeters at #hwainspire.

Meanwhile, the article below reports on an address by HWA’s chair Jim McGinty. It  was written by Robert Johnson on behalf of HWA.


“We cannot afford to maintain our existing approaches”

Robert Johnson writes:

Delegates were this morning urged to be brave about health workforce reform at the opening speech of Health Workforce Australia’s (HWA) inaugural Inspire 2012 conference in Melbourne.

HWA chair, the Hon Jim McGinty told delegates that its Health Workforce 2025 (HW2025) reports, including the newly-released HW2025 Volume Three, Medical Specialties, clearly showed the need for coordinated, long-term health workforce reform to ensure a secure, sustainable and affordable Australian health workforce.

Mr McGinty says the hard work of health workforce reform will involve each of the 500 delegates – and the organisations they represent – at Inspire 2012: Reshaping Australia’s Health Workforce conference.

“Let’s be brave and take this unique moment in time to do things another way and take the community with us,” Mr McGinty said. “Let’s look to reform and change so we can continue to look after the health of our citizens in the best way we possibly can. Innovation and reform is key.”

Mr McGinty outlined the key findings of HW2025 Volume 3, which was released by HWA on Friday.

The report found Australia does not have enough general practitioners or medical specialists in regional and rural communities, the popularity of some medical specialties with medical graduates does not match with the community’s needs, and the growing trend towards specialisation and sub-specialisation means there are not enough generalists.

He says by 2025, Australia will not have enough specialists in obstetrics and gynecology, ophthalmology, anatomical pathology, psychiatry, diagnostic radiology and radiation oncology.

Australia is still reliant on international medical graduates in some specialties and some of these doctors are not evenly distributed among specialties, he said.

He told delegates the medical training pathway is poorly coordinated, which means doctors are not distributed to the places where they are needed.

Mr McGinty outlined an action plan for the key players in the health and higher education sectors. The actions were agreed to by health ministers at their meeting last week in Perth (November 9).

“Across all the health workforces, national training plans need to be developed to better align activities of educators with needs of industry. We can’t perpetuate cycles of boom and bust,” Mr McGinty said.

He said entrenched patterns of “quick fix, ad hoc migration must be replaced with targeted programs of substitution of overseas trained health professionals with domestic graduates supervised and supported to enter their profession capably and safely.”

We need to continue the progress of national implementation of targeted workforce reform once viable models are developed, he said.

There also needs to be a collective response to the 109,000 nursing shortfall projected by 2025 and there should be streamlining of clinical training funding.

Mr McGinty said the evidence from HW2025 showed reform had to happen.

“The report shows us in chart after chart, table after table, statistic after statistic that reform is crucial. We cannot afford to maintain our existing approaches to work practices, productivity, training, geographical distribution or immigration,” he said.

Jim McGinty: courage is needed







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