While today's prediction of a shortfall of almost 110,000 registered and enrolled nurses by 2025 won't surprise those who work in health care, Health Workforce Australia's Health Workforce 2025 report should be a wake-up call for consumers and government.
Catholic hospital and aged care services, which themselves employ about 27,000 nurses around Australia, have known of the current and growing shortage of nurses for some years, and wonder why more urgent action hasn't been taken by Government.
Catholic Health Australia CEO Martin Laverty said today that in January 2006, the Productivity Commission's report Australia's Health Workforce outlined the challenges the health care community was facing.
"In November 2008, COAG adopted the Productivity Commission's proposal to establish a new agency to improve the availability of health professionals, which resulted in legislation to establish Health Workforce Australia in 2009.
"Health Workforce Australia has been in place for almost three years and today's release of the Health Workforce 2025 report shows little has improved. In fact, the shortage of nurses has, if anything, become more worrying," Mr Laverty said.
Health Workforce 2025 details the demand and availability of a range of health professionals, and concludes that Australia will have a shortage against demand across most categories of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals by 2025.
The projected nursing shortage is the report's most alarming finding, with projections that demand for nurses will be 389,932 in 2025, against a projected supply of just 280,442.
"The problem is international. Australia is not the only country facing health professional shortages. With $1.4 billion directed by COAG into Health Workforce Australia, three years on, it's time to ask what benefit this funding has delivered," Mr Laverty said.
"Catholic Health Australia argued at a Senate Inquiry when Health Workforce Australia was established that non-government health and aged care providers should be better utilised for their capacity to train and retain health professionals, and to innovate in how they attract staff.
"Greater involvement of the non-government sector and use of their expertise will go some way to improving the nation's hope of attracting and retaining health professionals," Mr Laverty concluded.