Rural Regional Roundtable group
The Victorian public healthcare system continues to combat significant system pressures with workforce challenges, the need for long-term infrastructure planning, ongoing system reforms, and increased service demands. Over the past 18 months these pressures have been compounded by the pandemic, adding to the significant challenges experienced by the system. These challenges require collective action, investment and advocacy.
Featuring a lineup of expert guest speakers, the Rural Regional Roundtable (RRR) virtual roundtable series aims to support rural and regional hospitals’ immediate and long-term preparedness and resilience. The RRR focuses on key system pressures including:
- health infrastructure
- sector coordination and communication
- surge capacity and system resilience.
Rural Regional Roundtable, 23 February 2023: policy agenda for a new term of government
We are excited to welcome back health board directors, executives, and senior leaders from rural and regional VHA member organisations to kick off the Rural Regional Roundtable series for 2023.
Following on from a strong state election campaign, the VHA is eager to work with members to build on the momentum of the platform and develop a long-term vision and advocacy agenda with rural and regional members.
On Thursday 23 February (2-4pm), rural and regional health service leaders will be joined by guest speaker Nicole Brady, Deputy Secretary Reform and Planning, Department of Health, to expand upon the department’s vision for the sector. The presentation will be followed by in-house member roundtable discussions that will shape the advocacy objectives of the VHA for 2023 and beyond.
Building a case for change in regional healthcare
Following past meetings where we articulated the systemic challenges impacting the sector, including workforce and infrastructure, health board directors, executives and senior leaders from rural and regional VHA member organisations joined our third RRR (on 21 June 2022) to bring these collective insights together to refine our rural and regional policy platform. Attendees were invited to summarise the key challenges faced by the sector, explore policy solutions, and prioritise the VHA’s advocacy agenda for the Victorian election and beyond.
Policy document: Responding to workforce pressures in rural and regional Victoria (April 2022)
The VHA developed a report exploring the complex challenges of workforce by drawing on both academic evidence and the collective insights of over 50 senior leaders from across health services in rural and regional Victoria.
This April 2022 report outlines the chronic and unique workforce challenges faced by rural and regional health services that are exacerbated by geographical location and scale of service. Challenges include housing availability, flexible workforce models, and competitive remuneration which create added complexity to recruitment and retention.
Policy ideas can be gleaned from the report’s case studies that highlight innovations that seek to both stimulate workforce pathways and protect the current pool of staff.
Responding to workforce pressures
At the first roundtable meeting, members identified that workforce was the greatest pressure on the health system. As such, the second forum ((on 15 February 2022) focused on helping services navigate short-term workforce shortages exacerbated by the omicron outbreak, as well as longstanding workforce issues. Attendees were invited to explore potential solutions and help shape the VHA’s support and advocacy efforts.
Members were joined by VHA Deputy Board Chair and CEO of West Wimmera Health Service, Trevor Adem, and Alpine Health CEO, Nick Shaw, for an interactive session exploring system challenges and testing potential policy solutions.
Key themes that emerged included:
- that workforce remains an ongoing challenge for the sector and has been exacerbated by the omicron outbreak over the summer period
- that policy solutions must address workforce holistically and acknowledge the rural and regional experience (for instance, housing availability).
For our first meeting (13 October 2021), rural and regional health board directors, executives, and senior leaders from across the state joined virtual discussions on readiness and resilience as the health system prepares for the COVID-19 peak.
We summarised key themes from the session in this article and the information collected around COVID-19 preparedness will assist in applying a strong rural and regional lens to our ‘Navigating COVID peak’ advocacy work.
We would like to thank Chris Hotham, Deputy Secretary for Health Infrastructure, for his time and sharing his insights from the Department of Health. We would also like to thank our members for their engagement and support to help shape policy and advocacy efforts – especially during such a busy time. Workforce was a strong theme that came through and will a key topic on the agenda for the RRR series.