Page 565 - Week 02 - Thursday, 24 March 2022

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While I welcome the government’s commitment to employing more than 400 new doctors, nurses and allied health workers in this term, I have a number of concerns with other parts of the minister’s update. The health minister mentions looking to the future of our public health workforce and trumpets that the government has initiated the development of a health workforce strategy and plan. Am I the only one incredulous that the government is only now developing a workforce strategy and plan?

Surely the first thing you do as health minister, with responsibility for Canberra’s health system, is ask: “Where is the plan?” And if there is not a workforce plan or strategy, you develop one as a priority. But that seems to have dawned on this government only recently, which speaks volumes about why our health system is in crisis. You only need to look at our shortage of midwives to know why the minister should have developed a workforce strategy a long time ago.

The minister reveals in her statement that our health services are completing essential workforce planning at the local level to attract, recruit and retain staff. Again, this begs the question: why was this not done years ago? If the workforce planning to attract, recruit and retain staff is essential, as the minister states, why is it only now that our health services are working on this? Another issue is where are those staff going to come from? Were all of Canberra’s graduate nurses employed when they finished their studies last year? If not, why not?

I refer to a Canberra Times report on 9 March with the headline, “Global search for hospital staff”. The report reveals that there will be a massive recruitment drive for staff to work at the new critical services building at the Canberra Hospital, with our health services looking overseas for talent. The article refers to the need to recruit a highly skilled and high-calibre team and states that our health system would seek local, national and international staff.

The Canberra Liberals calls on the government to prioritise local jobs and Canberra nurses and staff first and foremost. That has to be our focus, along with the training and upskilling for our existing staff to be able to take on more senior clinical and leadership roles.

The last issue I wish to raise is to seek clarity over exactly how many new nurses the government is employing. The minister has spoken about recruiting an extra 90 nurses to achieve minimum ratios, which the Canberra Liberals support. Are these 90 nurses on top of the 200 nurses the government has committed to employ?

My final question to the health minister is to seek more information about the over 750 nurses and midwives recruited in this last financial year—750 in nine months. That is about 83 nurses and midwives a month. Are these all permanent roles or are they employed on contracts? There is a big difference, and Canberrans have a right to know. For staff on contracts, what is the nature of those contracts and why are those key staff being recruited to contract positions?

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