Victoria needs a health workforce plan to overcome shortages

April 29, 2022

Victoria needs a health workforce plan to overcome a dire shortage of healthcare workers to deliver care where it is needed now and in future.

The biggest problem plaguing Victoria’s health system today is a lack of qualified people including doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals to work across the state. It is compromising every layer of our health system including hospital and ambulance services, GP and community health care, and residential aged care.

Before the pandemic, many Victorian health services were struggling to recruit enough health professionals to meet demand, but the pandemic and associated border closures have made it even harder. Furloughing and increasing rates of burn out has compounded the problem.

There are thousands of jobs available in public health services across the state, and rural and regional health services are finding it particularly difficult to fill them due to a lack of housing to accommodate workers. Some services have reported trying to buy houses to accommodate workers and others have had health professionals camping in residents’ backyards over summer so they could stay in the region to deliver care.

Despite this, a Victorian parliamentary inquiry recently heard there was no public record of how many different types of healthcare workers were employed by individual public services in Victoria right now. This highlights the need for an urgent assessment of what our workforce looks like today and what is required for the future.

The VHA is calling for a comprehensive state workforce plan, and for:

  • governments to fund more initiatives to attract and retain healthcare workers, particularly in rural and regional areas
  • a multi-year healthcare worker wellbeing strategy to look after our precious workforce
  • investment in training to boost our local health workforce pipeline
  • the Commonwealth to create a specific healthcare worker visa to attract more qualified workers from overseas while we build up our domestic workforce over time.

‘Victoria will not be able to catch up on the massive demand for delayed care including elective surgery if nothing is done to overcome the dire shortage of healthcare workers in this state,’ VHA CEO Tom Symondson said.

‘If we don’t see more action from the Commonwealth, Australia will get caught out in a worsening global shortage of healthcare workers. Other countries are moving fast to attract healthcare workers to keep their health systems running.’

‘Without a comprehensive examination of what public health services need now and measures to increase supply for five and 10 years’ time, this problem will only get worse.’