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Healthcare Workforce in Australia Statistics

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1.0. Introduction

Health care improvement and development is a key factor in the operations of all governments. The WHO provides guidelines on areas which need serious attention. They provide information and guidelines through publications and medical reports (Claire, 2006). In recent years the reports have increased significantly due to the advancement in technology and emergence of severe illnesses.

2.0. Body

2.1. National Health Workforce Strategic Framework (NHWSF) and Health Workforce Australia (HWA)

            In Australia medical health institutions are keen to embrace new treatment and health care advancements. They established the Health Workforce Australia (HWA) and the council of Australian governments which were given the responsibility of responding to medical health issues of the Australian people. In 2004, the National Health Workforce Strategic Framework (NHWSF) was drafted to guide the Australian health workforce policies.

The methods described in the NHWSF have been widely adopted and applied throughout the Australian health care workforce (Australian institute of health, 2006). The COAG (Council of Australian Governments) has begun to expand the self-sufficiency concept, which promotes cohesiveness among the many levels of government engaged in the health-care workforce. The government has been tasked with keeping track of any progress made in the implementation of the NHWSF. The Australian Nursing Federation wholeheartedly supports this. The reporting is transparent, and it is carried out by an impartial authority. Another step in the implementation process is to expand the number of trainees in the health care field. According to Ralph (2011), this is designed to address Australia’s health-care labor deficit. The NHWSF suggested that the number of college students enrolled in medical courses be raised. The Australia Nursing Federation (ANF) also suggests that the state college system be turned national in order to serve the whole country, since the health problem is no longer a state but a national one.

Healthcare Workforce in Australia Statistics

             Through the ANF, the government has considered the proposal of taking clinical education programs in rural universities. This was intended to cut the cost of living which rural students cover when they come to urban states to study medicine (Jane & Uschi, 2012). This in a way will increase the population of medical students countrywide. The Australian Government has by now embraced the medical training approach with the improvement of the national practice guidelines of the mental health workforce. These guidelines have not been put into practice since there has been inadequate support for integrating them into specialized standards. As the connection to registration of licensure is not there in the project, it exhibits that ownership of specialized standards is a major feature.

            Australia is going through a workforce shortage transversely through a number of health professions regardless of a significant and increasing reliance on foreign country’s trained health workforce. According to Jane and Uschi (2012), the shortages are even further severe in rural and far-off areas and in certain special needs divisions. With developing technology, rising community prospects and population ageing, the requirements for health workforce services will rise while the work force will tighten. New forms of care will also be mandatory. The number of foreign work force has risen from 19% to 25 % over the past decade (Patricia & Mary, 2007).

Table on selected health occupations, 1986-2006 from Australian bureau of statistics

 Selected Health Occupations, 1986-2006 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006)

1986 1996 2006
Generalist medical practitioners
Total (no.) 23,715 29,061 35,452
Rate per 100,000 persons(a): 152.6 163.7 178.6
in capital cities 181.8 191.2 207.1
in remainder of Australia 103.0 117.3 128.5
Total (no.) 8,973 14,950 18,259
Rate per 100,000 persons(a): 57.7 84.2 92.0
in capital cities 73.3 105.8 116.1
in remainder of Australia 31.3 47.7 49.4
Dental practitioners
Total (no.) 6,294 7,600 9,071
Rate per 100,000 persons(a): 40.5 42.8 45.7
in capital cities 47.0 50.5 55.4
in remainder of Australia 29.4 29.7 28.5
Total (no.) 173,102 186,166 219,788
Rate per 100,000 persons(a): 1,113.7 1,048.7 1,106.9
in capital cities 1,153.1 1,062.8 1,091.9
in remainder of Australia 1,047.0 1,024.8 1,133.4

(Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006) Selected health occupations, 1986-2006 [online graph] Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4819.0 [Accessed: 17/06/2008].)

            The table shows a significant growth of all health care professions. The numeral figure of persons working in the health workforce in 2006 was 360,400, which represents approximately 3.5% of the working Australian workforce in 2006. In 1996, those working in the health workforce were 3.4 % of the working Australian workforce. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006), there were 61,085 medical practitioners, 96,085 diverse health workers and 203,231 nursing professionals working in 2006. By 2018, there is forecast to be 409,300 Australians working in the health care profession with a standard growth of 1.7 % on an annual basis. However, the increase of number of health workers is not enough to provide the populous country with the required medical care and attention. The growth of the population is almost double the growth of health care personnel. In these modern times, about 80% of the families in Australia have medical covers (Simon & Heather, 2007). This, in turn, means the demand of health care increases significantly. With this increasing demand, the government is finding it difficult to deal with the shortage.

            In 2012, the number of health care workers has increased, but not enough to serve the vast population. Additionally, the number of homes for the elderly has also increased but the number of trainees working in the homes has decreased. According to Eileen, Louise and Kelleher (2008), this is due to the changing professional wants. The changing generation has also seen the decrease in the number of youths being trained as medical staff. The modern day society of the youths is more inclined to take on more fun professions and talent oriented. With the aging of the current medical staff in Australia, the continuity of the health workforce is at stake. However, with the government’s intervention the number of college trainees is predicted to increase. The government has started the promotion of rural medical training and the emergence of more medical schools in remote areas (Wolf & Robert, 2011).

            Gender differences are also evident in the Australian health workforce. Over the past decade the number of female employees has increased by at least 40%. The most affected profession is the mid wives sector which has had an increase of 98% (Erica, 2010).The HWA framework is clearly an update of the NHWSF 2004. In both frameworks, there is the inclusion of all government stakeholders to come together and improve medical care delivery (Health Workforce Australia, 2011). The HWA has put in place measures to the satisfaction of the NHWSF. Although some of the steps have not already been done, there are steps and proposals which are being undertaken. For instance, the HWA has come up with strategies which as much as possible try to retain workers.

            To retain already working personnel was a recommendation of the NHWSF which was aimed at reducing the cases of health workers shortage (Erica, 2010). To make sure that the framework is aimed at activities towards the most vital and pressing main concerns in the coming 5 years, HWA will collaborate with Commonwealth, State and Regional governments and organizations to center on those key workforce improvement and reform fields that will help deal with the nation’s highest priority health issues and areas.

            As drawn in the case for modification, government information, strategies and schemes transversely through Australia consistently spot the priority population based sets as: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, elderly people, people suffering from chronic illnesses, people suffering from mental health harms. According to the Australian Institute of Health (2006), the upcoming workforce improvements and transformations will have an impact on all sectors of the health structure, and the stress on high priority sectors will not lessen the need to research other important areas for change. This evidence is enough to show that the government is fully willing to streamline the Australian medical conditions (Ellen, Cecile, & Martin, 2009). The government is also well addressed on the direction to take in tackling these health issues.

            The government should be able to select strategies which will have a great impact in the reform on the health system. The three strategies which are likely to have great impact in the reforms are: the rural medical training institutions, collaboration with the common wealth and find a way to retain the already existing workforce. First, the establishment of the rural medical institution will significantly offer vast medical working opportunities to many people (Applied Health Professionals in Australia, 2008). This will greatly improve the recruitment of local medical workers. It will also increase the number of working medical personnel. Apart from the three strategies, the government should also launch government medical labs. From these medical labs, special training of medical students is done. The government labs should then provide the nation with students and trainees of a very high quality. As a recommendation from NHWSF, this involvement of the government will have a great impact in the provision of medical services in Australia.

            According to Tracy (2009), the collaboration with the Commonwealth will provide Australia with a better medical experience in various fields. This will see the inclusion of foreign medical workers into the Australian system. Retaining the current medical workforce is an obvious way of retaining local experience. The already existing workforce has vast experience in the medical field, retaining them will be building national wide confidence in the medical system. However, the employment of new medical practitioners should not be ignored. The vast experienced staff can offer training and medical guidance to the new generation staff.

3.0. Conclusion

            The Australian government should be commended for understanding the policies and requirements of the NHWSF and the HWA. Government participation has greatly impacted the Australian medical development. Its participation in the construction or rural medical training centers and allocation of funds to the medical field can be easily identified. The nation at large should also participate in the medical evolution in Australia. Understanding the public requirements as stated by the NHWSF and HWA should be the first step. Most importantly, the public should create interest in the medical field. They should indulge more in medical training institutions and also provide a medical workforce for the nation.

  • Allied Health Professionals in Australia. (2008). Allied health in Australia – Priorities for health care reform. Melbourne: Allied Health Professionals of Australia.
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2006). Selected health occupations, 1986-2006 [online graph] Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4819.0 [Accessed: 17/06/2008].
  • Australian Institute of Health. (2006). Australia’s Health. Sydney: Australia government Publishers.
  • Claire, B. (2006). Nursing: NSW/ ACTI. Australia: Career FAQs.
  • Erica, B. (2010). Research for health policies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Eileen, W., Louise, R., & Kelleher, H. (2008). Understanding the Australia healthcare system. Chats wood: Elsevier Australia.
  • Ellen, N., Cecile, K., & Martin, M. (2009). Managing chronic conditions. WHO regional office, Europe.
  • Health Workforce Australia. (2011). National health workforce innovation and reform strategic framework for action 2011–2015. Australia: Health Workforce Australia.
  • Jane, M., & Uschi, B. (2012). Social work in rural Australia. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.
  • Patricia, S., & Mary, C. (2007). Nursing the law. Chats wood: Elsevier Australia.
  • Ralph, C. (2011). Vocational learning. New York: Springer Publishers
  • Roslyn, S., & Rick, L. (2008). Managing clinical processes in health services. Chats wood: Elsevier Australia.
  • Simon, B., & Heather, G. (2007). Analyzing health policy. Chats wood: Elsevier Australia.
  • Tracy, H. (2009). The U.S oral health workforce in the coming decade. Washington DC: National Academic Press.
  • Wolf, K., & Robert, C. (2011). Global perspective in workplace health promotion. Boston: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

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