Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Australia urgently needs a health workforce plan

An application can take more than 20 months to process and when workers arrive, there can be even more challenges such as difficulty finding affordable housing, and no way to permanent residency. All of this makes it a tough sell for people to outgrow their families and move them halfway around the world.

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Other countries are moving fast, and our federal politicians need to do the same to avoid leaving Australia behind. The UK recently introduced a new visa class for healthcare workers to address its shortage. The Health and Care Worker Visa allows qualified doctors, nurses, social care workers and their families to immigrate to the UK for a period of five years. Decisions are made in three weeks and applicants can eventually become permanent residents. Why can’t Australia do this?

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These problems need urgent attention if our healthcare system has any chance of recovering from COVID-19 and holding onto long waiting lists for care as demand continues to rise. There was already a growing population and community demanding more disease before the pandemic. In 2019, 40 percent of Australians over the age of 45 had two or more chronic diseases – a trend now likely to get worse.

So, if we value access to quality health care for ourselves and our loved ones, we need a workforce roadmap to deliver it that deals with home training, upskilling and migration among other things. Piecemeal policy announcements that ignore our serious workforce shortages will no longer cut it. We need a comprehensive plan to retain our valuable health care workers and recruit others to join them. At the end of the day, all of our lives can depend on it.

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