Doctor and nurse shortages and severe training shortfalls would become a thing of the past if Australia's health workforce was overseen by a national commission, Catholic Health Australia (CHA) said today.
CHA, which represents 75 public and private hospitals and 550 aged care services, has proposed in its Budget submission to the Federal Government that a National Health Workforce Commission be established to coordinate the training, planning, and distribution of doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals.
"The Commission would be responsible for ensuring that Australia has an adequate and appropriately skilled health workforce through the challenging years to come -- and beyond," said CHA Chief Executive Martin Laverty.
"It would manage all Commonwealth funding for health and aged care workforce training; advise on immigration requirements for overseas-trained clinicians; collect and apply data to plan for future health workforce needs, and administer national registration arrangements for health professionals.
"Australia's health workforce is at crisis point. It makes sense to establish a single national agency to take responsibility for immediate and long-term workforce planning."
Because of the pressures on Australia's health system, the Commission also would redefine roles for doctors, nurses and other members of the health workforce, ensuring that the most appropriate health professionals are available to fill hospital and clinic staffing needs.
In its Budget submission, CHA estimates it would cost $14 million annually to run the National Health Workforce Commission.
"Australia has an acute shortage and misdistribution of health professionals, and without a central agency that situation will only worsen," Mr Laverty said.
"Current responsibilities for policy development, planning, financing and delivery of training of health workers is complex, highly fragmented and lacking in cohesion and long-term focus.
"There is a clear imperative to streamline and simplify our approach to the national health workforce."
CHA also has submitted to the Federal Government a comprehensive policy paper outlining terms of reference for the National Health Workforce Commission.