The Group of Eight (Go8) has called on an incoming Government to move quickly to avert a looming medical crisis as Australia’ depleted healthcare workforce copes with increasing demand and pressure in a post pandemic world.
Essential Decisions for National Success: Securing the Future of Australia’s Medical Workforce is one of a series of policy papers from the Go8 in the lead up to the Federal election. The papers aim to support the development of Government policy to meet the challenges ahead.
Go8 Chief Executive Vicki Thomson said COVID-19 has exacerbated the burn-out rate among healthcare workers, Australia can no longer rely on international medical graduates (IMGs) to fill workforce gaps, and it takes 10-15 years to fully train a medical professional.
“Addressing medical workforce issues is complex,” said Ms Thomson, however complexity must not be a barrier or an excuse not to reform. We have taken advice from a wide range of stakeholders, including experts from State/ Territory and Commonwealth health departments, public and private health services, medical profession and student peak bodies, rural, regional and remote health bodies.
“They agree that delivering Australia’s future medical workforce will require a step change and bold reform. The Go8’s starting point is an immediate increase in the national supply of domestically trained medical practitioners,” said Ms Thomson.
“The Australian community needs certainty around health services and a secure supply of domestically trained medical practitioners will assist this greatly. To increase our sovereign capacity – even without increasing the total number of doctors in Australia – requires at least an additional 1,000 domestic graduates per year.”
“We also need to adopt a formal sovereign capability charter for Australia’s medical workforce.
International medical graduates will always play a critical role in Australia’s medical workforce, particularly in regional areas. Australia currently recruits as many international medical graduates annually as there are domestic graduates from Australian medical schools. This is not sustainable. Nor should it ever be a preferred option of any government.”
Australia’s major political parties are aware of the impending crisis. The Morrison Government announced 80 new Commonwealth Supported medical school places attached to medical schools with rural campuses in the 2022-23 Budget, and more recently $146 million in new funding for more doctors and allied health professionals in regional and rural communities. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese recently recognised “Australia’s severe shortage of nurses and doctors…We should be training up Australians to meet our medical workforce needs.” (The Australian, 26 April).
“The Go8 is definitive in stating that securing the future of our medical workforce requires a serious long-term commitment, which has at its core a National Medical Data Strategy and a commitment to address the geographic maldistribution of the medical workforce.
Ms Thomson said that health and access to healthcare are top issues of concern for Australians. “The demand on Australia’s medical workforce will increase as Australia’s population is growing older, faster than expected, putting increased pressure on our health system,” she said.