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Health Workforce Retention

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Tags: Health

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, the Greens asked a lot of questions of the Health minister during Estimates last week, and I will go into the detail of that during my Estimates reply speech. Fundamentally, what healthcare workers were expecting, and understanding has to be delivered by the Liberal Government, was some indication that there is the extent of resourcing required to first of all provide some short term, near term relief for particularly ambulance paramedics, nurses and midwives, who are working in intolerable situations without enough people in the pool, and to prevent them from having to work double shifts and longer shifts than they want to otherwise work.

However, there was not any money in the Budget for the actual real increase in paramedics that are needed to reduce the load on people and to allow our regional ambulance centres to be open every single night. There was no money in the Budget to support the ongoing calls that have been in place for years by the ANMF to increase the number of nurses in the nurse pool so there can be the breadth of people available to fill shifts when required. We are going into winter. Nurses, midwives, doctors, ward clerks, cleaners, people at every level of support in our hospitals, paramedics, people in call centres, have all been working for years under extreme pressure. Many of them are feeling very burnt out because of the pressures of COVID-19 in their workplace and the broader social pressures of the changes to our living conditions and the way society functions that we are all collectively experiencing.

Those people got nothing in this Budget. The Victorian and New South Wales governments have both shown a tiny but very important and symbolic gesture of appreciation for people who have been doing the hardest of work and continue to do that work for us. They are the people who are there when we need them the most, when we are most vulnerable and need to be cared for when we are suffering and at risk of dying. These are the people that the Victorian and New South Wales governments recognised need to have an incentive to continue to do that work. We cannot keep treating people as though they will turn up for work every single day without showing them appreciation. It has to be both a financial appreciation in terms of a real salary increase but there also has to be expansive additional resourcing into the total number of staff who are employed, because people cannot keep working under the intolerable pressures they are working under.

The Victorian strategy that was announced was for a $3000 winter payment, they have called it, to retain staff. The recognition is there in Victoria and New South Wales that staff are walking and it is not that they are going to other states, they are walking out of their profession forever, they are leaving, they are sick of it. They cannot do it any longer. They are in a system which, year on year, they have been holding on throughout the pandemic giving it everything they can, expecting every budget that more resourcing would be provided for additional numbers of staff and they have not been met with that.

It is symbolic, it is a token gesture, but at the very least it is recognition for staff. Victoria is providing staff with paid meals to encourage people to work overnight shifts. People do not have the energy to continue to do that. We have models sitting there on the table that their Premier should match. He should be providing the sorts of support that the Victorian and New South governments are providing. It is a bare minimum.

Fundamentally, what he has not done and what we desperately need to have a way forward out of this terribly broken system, is to put funding into recruitment and retention of staff and that means money in the budget for the support for clinical educators and clinical coaches. We can do that. The Greens funded this in our fully costed alternative budget. We put in 25 clinical educators and 50 clinical coaches. This is what ANMF Tasmania has been asking for years. It can be done if the Government prioritised people who do the hardest work and for us when we are in need so that we have the quality care and we are able to get the care we need in a timely manner.

At the moment, the way the Government is mismanaging the hospital system means that the waiting time for people being treated in emergency departments and in getting elective surgeries is blowing out all the national standards. We are behind the national benchmarks in almost all the standards: for elective surgeries in timely fashion, for being treated, and getting a bed in a hospital in emergency departments. These are things that can change, but the Government refuses to make the investments that people in Tasmania really want.