Financial incentives urgently needed to boost health workforce

August 25, 2022

Victoria needs to urgently use more financial incentives to attract qualified health workers to the state.

On Monday, the Victorian Government’s Skills Plan confirmed Victoria’s severe shortage of healthcare workers. It said Victoria needs 65,000 new workers to join the health and community care sector between now and 2025 to meet demand and replace people retiring. This includes 6,500 nurses.

The plan also highlighted three factors likely to reduce the available workforce for health services. It said the number of workers leaving their jobs for a better one or for change is 45 per cent above pre-COVID-19 levels, and that COVID-19 related absenteeism is likely to continue for the next 12-18 months.

In addition, the report said many students required to perform work placements to complete their training were disrupted by lockdowns and other restrictions, potentially slowing their entrance to the workforce. It warned some of these people may not choose to complete their qualification.

Deputy CEO of the VHA, Juan Paolo Legaspi, said the report was distressing reading for anybody working in health care after a gruelling three years. It comes after the Victorian Government said last week that it had recruited 8,500 healthcare workers since the pandemic began – an average of 3,000 per year.

Given Victoria requires about 22,000 new health and community care workers per year over the next three years, Mr Legaspi said the Victorian Government should consider a large-scale recruitment campaign to attract more workers to public health and community health services, similar to the Victorian Government’s Teach the Future campaign.

The $41.7 million campaign seeks to address critical teacher shortages in hard-to-staff geographic areas and specialist subjects with financial incentives. This includes initial payments of between $9,000-$50,000 to eligible Victorian schools, as well annual retention bonuses of $9,000 paid to teachers at the conclusion of second, third and fourth years of employment.

‘Finding ways to retain and recruit health workers should be the number one election issue in Victoria. The latest hospital performance report shows we are experiencing unprecedented demand for care. On top of that, almost every public health service is struggling to manage workforce shortages,’ he said.

‘When hospitals don’t have enough staff available, they have to close beds – sometimes entire wards – and they have to delay procedures. This is distressing for both the health workers and the patients.’

The Victorian Government’s recent workforce initiative includes $3,000 payments to help retain staff working in public hospitals and ambulance services during the winter period. The last of these payments will be paid to workers in September.

 

Media contact: Julia Medew is on 0402 011 438 or Julia.medew@vha.org.au