Katy Gallagher has promised to deliver 500 additional nurses into the ACT nursing workforce over the next four years, reports student journalist Madeline Power.

In the recent ACT election, Labor narrowly obtained power through a coalition with the Greens by a single seat and it has many promises to deliver.

Chief Minister and Minister for Health, Katy Gallagher, promised to deliver 500 additional nurses into the ACT nursing workforce over the next four years.

A report published by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia this year recorded the number of registered nurses and midwives in the ACT to be just under 4,500. The ACT possesses 1.49% of the nursing workforce of Australia, the second lowest percentage in comparison to other states, sitting just above the Northern Territory at 1.03%.

In an effort to improve the health care system, ACT Labor has also announced the plan for a new sub-acute facility to be completed by 2017, as well as promising $8 million to complete the Belconnen Community Health Centre, currently under construction in the town centre.

Jenny Miragaya, secretary of the ACT branch of the Australian Nursing Federation, says the amount of nurses practising in the ACT should be a matter the government needs to properly address.

“In our submission, we spoke about the fact that they needed to provide workforce for the new sub-acute facility and that is a concern; whether or not there will be sufficient, skilled nurses, to actually provide staffing for the facility,” Mrs Miragaya said.

“We do actually need to grow our own. So we need to think about having an increase in undergraduate places,” she said. “We need to look at conditions and wage rates so that you’ve got an ability to attract and retain staff. But I think the new sub-acute facility itself will be a magnet to encourage people to come to the ACT, undertake their studies and possibly do their clinical placements within it.”

Health Care Shortages?

Health care services are an integral part of Australian society. Australians expect outstanding facilities, a high level of professional treatment and health care service with a smile. However, there is nothing to smile about when it comes to the latest prediction of Health Workforce Australia. The organisation is expecting a workforce shortage of around 110,000 nurses by 2025 in their latest annual report.

The Chairman of Health Workforce Australia, the Hon James McGinty, said the short term supply of nurses is relatively stable, but the significant shortfall of almost 110,000 nurses will occur if policy settings remain unchanged. Areas such as mental health and aged care are at particular risk of shortages.

Katy Gallagher maintains that over four years, the boost to nursing numbers is manageable, stating that 2011 saw more graduate nurses apply for positions than there were vacancies.

“The issue with health is that everyone wants more services, more beds open, more operating theatres, more elective surgery done… but you have to do it gradually. There are not simply 500 nurses that you can snap your fingers today and then have employed in the health system.”

“Just looking at the figures for graduate nurses coming in next year; we had 190 people apply for 100 positions,” she said.

“Most of those were local students, about 70% were local students and some were coming from NSW so we’re actually over subscribed for some positions, which is a great position to be in.”

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