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The Andrews Government’s $270 million announcement to recruit more nurses into the public health system is well-intended but risks exacerbating nurse shortages in aged care and general practice.
APNA welcomes the intent of the Andrews Government’s push to provide free university and specialist training for all nurses, nursing students and midwives. The announcement will help recruit more people into nursing at a time when they are desperately needed.
However, the announcement also risks reducing the number of graduate nurses moving into aged care and general practice and degrading primary health care services such as general practice and aged care by creating further employment pressure.
"The intent of this announcement is to improve the health of Victorians. In its current form, it will fail to do this by undermining health settings such as aged care and general practice to employ the nurses who prevent chronic disease and unnecessary hospitalisations,” said APNA CEO Ken Griffin.
“The Andrews Government needs to change the announcement to ensure it has the desired impact.”
30 per cent of Victoria’s nurses work in primary health care settings1, which includes many non-state-funded aged care, general practices, homecare, schools, correctional care, Aboriginal medical services, and refugee health services.
Without change, this policy is likely to exacerbate workforce shortages by limiting the number of new nurses who are interested in working in aged care, general practice and other primary health care settings. The nurses in these settings deal with the prevention of chronic disease which causes the majority of hospital admissions and are driving the growth in health budgets.
“Not all nurses work in hospitals, but all nurses work on the frontline and contribute to the health of Victoria. We cannot afford policies that will exacerbate workforce shortages,” said APNA CEO Ken Griffin.
“In addition, other state or territory governments considering similar policies need to stop, reverse course and treat all nurses the same. There is no benefit from favouring one group of nurses over another for political and electoral gain.”
APNA looks forward to working with Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas and Premier Daniel Andrews to ensure that Victoria has an adequate number of primary health care nurses into the future.
NOTES TO EDITOR
The Victorian government:
Has already given public sector nurses a $3000 ‘thank you’ payment in June this year for their valuable COVID-related work over the past two and a half years. Primary health care nurses did not receive this payment.
By handing public hospital nurses an additional $7500 over the next two years, this latest policy announcement further undervalues the contribution that primary health care nurses make in keeping Victoria safe and healthy.
Australia has had a 10% increase in nurses planning to leave PHC settings in the next 12 months (APNA,2022).
The number of Victorians aged 65 and above is set to triple by 20582 and with an existing national shortage of 15,000 aged care nurses, the stress and workload placed upon Victoria’s aged care workforce will rapidly become unsustainable without a change in direction.