Chapter 2 Australia’s medical workforce
A health workforce with an adequate supply of well-trained
practitioners, including medical practitioners, underpins the delivery of high
quality health care in Australia. Governments at national and state levels are
instrumental in determining the community’s needs for health care, and what
constitutes an adequate medical workforce to meet these needs. The supply of
medical practitioners (both general practitioners and specialists), and where
and how they can practise is heavily influenced by government policies.
This Chapter presents an overview of what is known about Australia’s
demand for, and supply of medical practitioners, and examines some of the
issues surrounding the future stability and reliability of that workforce. In
that broader context, the Chapter considers Australia’s past and current
reliance on international medical graduates (IMGs) to fulfil the health needs
of the community. The Chapter presents a brief overview of current government
workforce initiatives intended to achieve equilibrium between demand and supply
of medical practitioners, and address issues of geographical mal-distribution.
This Chapter concludes by considering issues associated with medical workforce
Medical practitioner supply
Assessing the adequacy of Australia’s medical practitioner workforce is
not straightforward, relying on estimates of underlying demand for services and
judgement in relation to an appropriate level of response. Concerns regarding
the supply of medical practitioners in Australia have changed over time. As
noted by the Australian Medical Council (AMC):
In the last two decades, the national policy on medical
workforce has swung between concerns of significant oversupply (1992),
resulting in quotas on the AMC examination and points penalties on migration
applications for medical practitioners, to concerns of undersupply resulting in
active recruitment of overseas trained health professionals and considerations
of task substitution and regulatory reform (2005).
As noted above, concerns about the adequacy of Australia’s medical
practitioner workforce emerged in the mid to late 1990s. Initially there was
concern regarding an apparent mal-distribution of medical practitioners, with
shortages evident in rural and remote areas of Australia. Despite measures
introduced to encourage more medical practitioners to work in rural and remote
locations, these shortages persisted. Furthermore, by the early 2000s evidence
was emerging of medical practitioner shortages in some outer-metropolitan
Currently, although there are some suggestions that there are no
shortages of medical practitioners in Australia, and that there may in fact be a
surplus, the more widely held
view is that there are still too few medical practitioners to meet Australia’s
needs. According to a 2005
Productivity Commission report on Australia’s health workforce:
Though precise quantification is difficult, there are evident
shortages in workforce supply — particularly in general practice, various
medical specialty areas, dentistry, nursing and some key allied health areas.
These shortages persist despite the fact that the workforce
has been growing at nearly double the rate of the population — though
reductions in average hours worked in response to such factors as workforce
ageing and greater feminisation of some professions, have partly offset this
increase in numbers. Medical shortages also remain despite an increasing
reliance on overseas trained doctors, who now make up 25 per cent of that
workforce compared with 19 per cent a decade ago. 
In 2008, a Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA)
report on the health workforce in regional, rural and remote locations made the
n Rural and remote
Australia has experienced medical workforce shortages for a considerable
period, particularly in terms of general practice services and some specialist
services, such as obstetrics and gynaecology.
n Numbers of GPs in
proportion to the population decrease significantly with greater remoteness,
with the lowest supply to ‘very remote’ areas, particularly in New South Wales
and Western Australia.
n There is also
considerable variation across jurisdictions. Northern Territory and Western
Australia, as well as the Australian Capital Territory, have lower number of
GPs proportional to the population.
n In recent years, the
medical workforce in rural and remote Australia has increased modestly, mostly
due to restrictions on Medicare provider numbers for overseas trained doctors
to encourage them to work in rural and remote areas of workforce shortage.
n One-third of doctors
currently working in Australia were trained overseas.
n The proportion of
overseas trained doctors is significantly higher in rural and remote areas
where 41% of all doctors have trained overseas.
n Although the number
of GPs continues to grow, this growth does not indicate increased availability
of GPs over time, as the growth in the medical workforce has not kept pace with
the rate of population growth.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Medical Labour Force 2009
survey (published in 2011) highlighted the gulf between cities and rural areas
with regard to the availability of doctors and specialists:
The supply of employed medical practitioners was highest in
major cities (392 full-time equivalent medical practitioners per 100,000
population) (based on a 40-hour working week). The rate of employed medical
practitioners per head of population was significantly lower in other
remoteness areas, with outer regional having the lowest rate (206 full-time
equivalent [FTE] medical practitioners per 100,000 population). The number of
clinical medical specialists decreased with increasing remoteness (142 FTE per
100,000 for major cities; 24 FTE per 100,000 for remote/very remote areas).
Furthermore, the Overseas Trained Specialist Anaesthetists Network noted
that specialist shortfalls were part of a global trend as populations in developed
countries continued to age:
... the [Australian] medical sector will more than ever be
dependent on Overseas Trained Doctors. This is even more important in the light
of an ageing ‘baby-boom-generation’. This does not affect Australia alone - the
shortfall in the medical workforce can be seen worldwide with a subsequent
overall migration of medical practitioners and specialists. Thus Australia competes
over medical specialists on a highly competitive market with medically highly developed
areas (Canada, United States, Scandinavia, Central Europe etc) with most of them
conducting active recruitment and integration programs.
Over the years Commonwealth, state and territory governments have
invested in various strategies to address medical workforce shortages. Arrangements
that support IMGs to live and work in Australia, is one strategy that has been
used to address medical workforce shortages in the short to medium term. In the
longer term Australia seeks to become ‘self-sufficient’ with regard to its
medical practitioner workforce by providing more support for education of
medical practitioners (such as university places and scholarships) and by
providing more training places for general practitioners.
International medical graduates or self sufficiency
As medical workforce shortages became apparent in the mid to late 1990s,
Australia began to introduce policies to encourage IMGs to come to Australia to
live and work. Since then, Australia has increasingly relied on IMGs to
supplement its locally trained workforce, and IMGs make up a significant part
of Australia’s medical workforce, particularly in rural and remote Australia.
While it is difficult to determine exact numbers, the submission from DoHA
indicates that IMGs currently comprise approximately 39% of the medical workforce
in Australia and 46% of general practitioners in rural and remote locations.
As observed by Rural Health West, which reported that 52% of Western
Australia’s rural and remote workforces are IMGs, in some areas the proportion of
IMGs is significantly higher.
Ideally Australia, as an economically developed nation, should have the
capacity to become self-sufficient in meeting its medical practitioner
workforce needs. Indeed, the World Health Organisation (WHO) global code of practice
states that Member States should meet their own health human resources needs as
much as possible.
The Australian Doctors Trained Overseas Association explained the
rationale behind the goal for WHO Member States like Australia to aim for
self-sufficiency in the development of medical practitioners:
There is a moral responsibility on them to do that because,
when it does not happen, the workforce from Third World countries is denuded
and they come to Australia.
Furthermore, as submitted by the Rural Doctors Association of Australia
and others, self-sufficiency is also likely to create a far more sustainable
system for the recruitment of doctors to rural and regional Australia.
While acknowledging an expected increase in Australian medical
graduates, DoHA observed that IMGs were still an integral part of Australia’s
health workforce, advising the Committee:
We expect that by 2013 we will have almost doubled the number
of medical graduates coming on stream through our system. So, over the medium-to-longer
term, we will have many more Australian graduates, but in the meantime overseas
doctors are a very important part of our workforce.
However, Dr Rajendra Moodley noted that even with the anticipated
increase in domestic medical graduates, it would still take time for them to
develop the necessary level of skill and experience and therefore a continued
reliance on IMGs is likely for a period of time. As Dr Moodley observed in
relation to recent medical graduates:
How is an intern going to do the job of a registrar or of a
GP who has been there for many years or of a specialist?
Also, while agreeing with this ultimate goal of self-sufficiency, the
AMA acknowledged that it would take some time to achieve, saying:
The doctors we are training have not yet emerged to take part
in looking after patients and the public and it will be some time before they
do. But there is a general recognition in Australia that Australia should be
walking [working] towards self-sufficiency so that we are training our own
The Committee notes that views on whether Australia’s medical workforce
has sufficient numbers of appropriately trained and skilled practitioners have varied
over the last two decades. Over that period views have changed from an
understanding of oversupply, to an understanding of mal-distribution with
shortages in some geographical areas or in specific medical specialties, to the
current generally held view of universal medical workforce shortages.
Notwithstanding the initiatives promoted by all levels of government,
including the provision of additional education and training places to grow the
domestically trained workforce, the Committee received a range of comments in
relation to the extent of the shortfall. Two key medical workforce issues were
raised again and again. These were an inadequate supply of medical
practitioners generally, and an uneven geographical distribution of medical
practitioners, with workforce shortages remaining acute in some regional areas
and particularly in rural and remote locations. Based on the weight of evidence
received, the Committee understands that IMGs are needed to address current
workforce shortages and are an integral part of Australia’s medical workforce.
It appears that IMGs will continue to fulfil this role at least in the short to
While acknowledging the valuable contribution of IMGs, especially in the
provision of medical services to rural and remote communities, the Committee
agrees that the development of self sufficiency in producing domestically
trained medical personnel should be the target that Australia works towards. Importantly,
consideration should encompass the potential for foreign born doctors who have trained
in Australia to contribute to meeting domestic workforce needs by providing
options which facilitates their working and practising in Australia when they
have graduated. In addition, maintaining a sufficiently experienced cohort of
IMGs will be critical to ensure that domestically trained medical graduates
receive the clinical oversight they need for continued professional
development. As observed by Associate Professor Michael Steyn:
Our foreign doctors are our current teachers, let alone our
current providers of care. They teach our local students, our local health
workers and our local specialist trainees. So it is more than just the
provision of health care.
Notwithstanding the observations above, the Committee believes that self
sufficiency is an achievable goal for Australia, which will need to be
facilitated by appropriate medical workforce policy developed in the context of
robust workforce planning models. Information on Australia’s current medical
workforce policy and issues associated with medical workforce planning is
Australia’s medical workforce policy
As noted earlier, governments at national, and state and territory
levels have enacted a number of measures to address shortages and uneven
distribution of the medical workforce in Australia. In broad terms these
n seek to grow Australia’s
domestically trained medical practitioner workforce;
n target recruitment of
IMGs to live and work in Australia;
n encourage medical
practitioners (domestically trained and/or IMGs) to work in areas that are
difficult to recruit to, either by providing incentives or by placing
restrictions on where some practitioners are able to work.
DoHA identifies its role regarding the medical workforce:
... to maximise the possibility that there is an adequate
number of health professionals to meet population need, both now and into the
future; that the workforce is appropriately distributed and retained to meet
the community's needs; and that adequate training and education arrangements
are in place to support the continued development of the workforce.
In undertaking this role, DoHA administers a range of initiatives to
support development of the medical workforce. As regional, rural and remote
locations are more likely to experience medical workforce shortages, many of
these initiatives form part of DoHA’s Rural Health Workforce Strategy. While
not a comprehensive review of all programs available under DoHA’s Rural Health
Workforce Strategy, the following section provides an overview of those
programs which specifically target recruitment and retention of IMGs or which
may be accessible to IMGs.
DoHA’s target programs include the International Recruitment Strategy which
was established to increase the supply of appropriately qualified IMGs to
districts of workforce shortage (DWS) throughout Australia. Under this program
funding is provided to Rural Workforce Agencies (RWAs) which assist prospective
IMGs to work their way through various aspects necessary for working in Australian
general practice, such as visa enquiries, pathways to medical registration,
medical registration and skills recognition.
Other targeted initiatives that aim to encourage IMGs to work in DWS
locations include non-cash incentive schemes which reduce the usual
10 year period of restricted access to a Medicare provider number that
applies to IMGs in Australia. Specifically, Overseas
Trained Doctor (OTD) scaling reduces the restriction by up to five years for
IMGs who choose to work in a DWS. Alternatively, IMGs may be eligible to
participate in the Five Year OTD Scheme, which also reduces the period of
restricted access to a Medicare provider number for IMGs who choose to practise
in areas that are difficult to recruit to.
The Specialist International Medical Graduate (SIMG) element of the Specialist
Training Program (STP) offers training and support for IMGs seeking Fellowship
with a specialist medical college. To be classified as a SIMG, IMGs must be
assessed by a specialist college as partially or substantially comparable to an
Australian trained specialist. The aims of the SIMG element of the STP are to
provide training for SIMGs seeking to achieve Fellowship of a specialist
medical college in Australia; and support the permanent entry and retention of
SIMGs in Australia, in the areas they are most needed, so they can contribute
on a long-term basis to the community and the medical workforce.
DoHA also supports the DoctorConnect website. DoctorConnect provides a
range of information about incentives available to work in regional, rural and
remote Australia. It also provides a starting point for IMGs and potential
employers, assisting them to work their way through the various approval
processes leading to entry to the Australian medical workforce.
IMGs who are permanent residents of Australia may be eligible to access
support through the Additional Assistance Scheme. This Additional Assistance
Scheme is administered by the RWAs, and was introduced to support increased
access to general practitioners for people living in regional, rural and remote
communities. The Scheme assists participants by addressing any medical
knowledge/clinical deficits to support their efforts in achieving Fellowship
with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) or Australian
College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM).
The General Practice Rural Incentive Program (GPRIP) was established in
2010 to increase the number of rural medical practitioners, GPs and
specialists. It does this through the provision of financial incentives grants.
While IMGs may be eligible to access some components of the available
incentives, eligibility may be limited for IMGs who are not permanent residents
or who are still subject to the 10 year period of restricted access to a
Medicare provider number.
IMGs may also be able to access support through distance education and
intensive training through the Rural Vocational Training Scheme (RVTS). The
RVTS is a vocational education and training program in general practice that
provides a pathway to Fellowship of RACGP or ACRRM. Unlike the Additional
Assistance Scheme, the RVTS is open to IMGs who are temporary residents, though
priority is given to permanent residents.
The Rural Locum Relief Program is also available to IMGs who are
permanent residents and is designed to provide access to Medicare benefits for
temporary placements in rural general practice or Aboriginal medical services.
In addition to the programs described above, DoHA also funds Rural
Health Workforce Australia (RHWA). RHWA is responsible for managing national
programs to address the shortage of doctors and other health workers in rural
and remote communities, including the recruitment of IMGs.
RHWA is also the peak body for the seven Rural Workforce Agencies (RWAs) which
are not-for-profit organisations funded by DoHA, as well as their respective
state governments. The RWAs are primarily
responsible for recruitment and provision of professional support services for
medical practitioners in their jurisdictions, with an aim to increase the
number of doctors in rural and remote communities across Australia.
RHWA, through the RWAs, is responsible for implementing programs including:
n the International
n the five year OTD
n the Rural Vocational
Training Scheme; and
n the Rural Locum
Another significant initiative is the establishment in 2001 by the then
Minister for Health and Aging of General Practice Education and Training
Limited (GPET). GPET, a wholly owned Commonwealth company, was established to
oversee and fund regionally based vocational education and training in general
practice for medical graduates. GPET operates a system of general practice
education and training, delivered through 17 regional training providers (RTPs)
across Australia. GPET manages the
Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) program and the Prevocational General
Practice Placements Program (PGPPP) programs.
Under the AGPT program, registrars (including IMGs who have permanent
Australian residency) may undertake vocational training in accordance with the
curriculum and standards relevant to their chosen college vocational training
pathway. The PGPPP (also accessible to IMGs who have permanent Australian
residency) is a prevocational training program that enhances junior doctors'
understanding of primary health care and encourages them to take up general
practice as a career.
State and territory governments
While it is beyond the scope of this report to provide a comprehensive
overview, state and territory governments also support a range of initiatives
to address medical practitioner workforce shortages by recruiting IMGs. As
noted previously, state and territory governments contribute to the funding of
RWAs which provide recruitment and professional support for medical
practitioners, including IMGs seeking employment and registration in Australia.
State and territory governments are also responsible for identifying
Areas of Need (AoN). Although methods of defining them vary between jurisdictions,
essentially AoN is a location in which there is a lack of specific medical
practitioners or where there are medical positions that remain unfilled even
after recruitment efforts have taken place over a period of time. Importantly,
AoNs are not confined to regional, rural or remote locations but also encompass
metropolitan and outer metropolitan locales. To address workforce shortages,
eligible IMGs are offered options to accelerate their accreditation and apply
for Limited Registration to enable them to practice in AoN locations or
positions while working concurrently to obtain full Australian medical
registration. More information on the options and processes available to IMGs
pursuing AoN position is provided in Chapter 3 of the report.
Medical Workforce Planning
As noted earlier, assessing medical workforce needs is complex. Over the
last 30 years views of the adequacy of the medical workforce have ranged from
concerns of over-supply to concerns of mal-distribution and finally workforce
shortages. It appears that actions taken in the past to restrict the flow of
doctors into Australia had the unintended consequence of creating a larger
shortfall than desirable, which has led to the need to recruit large numbers of
IMGs to meet demand. Dr Paul Mara, President of the Rural Doctors Association
of Australia told the Committee:
My understanding of the workforce over the past 28 years is
that you do tend to reach a flip-flop scenario so that changes occur very
rapidly and the systems do not catch up with that for a period of time after
it. So for many years we were seen as having an oversupply of doctors and a
misdistribution in the country and then very rapidly we all of a sudden have an
undersupply in both the city and the country.
Robust workforce planning models are crucial if Australia is to meet its
current and future medical workforce needs. Effective workforce planning needs
to take into account a number of factors which will influence population
demands for medical services and the supply of medical practitioners to deliver
these services. Factors which will influence demand for medical services and
the supply of medical practitioners to deliver them include:
n demographic trends
and changing population distributions;
n changes in the burden
of disease, including an increased prevalence of chronic diseases associated
with an ageing population;
n technological and
medical advances, coupled with higher health care expectations from consumer;
n the number of
Australian medical graduates and IMGs entering the workforce;
n the availability of
supervised placements Australian medical graduates and IMGs;
n retirement of current
medical practitioners associated with an ageing workforce; and
n changes to working
patterns, including a trend to lower average weekly working hours.
Clearly medical workforce planning is a complex undertaking. As observed
by the National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA):
Medical workforce numbers are affected by a complex array of
factors - many of which lie outside the control of policy makers and planners.
Further complexity is added by the reality that it takes approximately 13 years
to train a fully qualified medical practitioner. As a result, medical workforce
planning will never be an exact science.
The difficulty associated with developing robust models and assessment
tools for workforce planning is amplified by substantial gaps and
inconsistencies in national medical workforce data. As observed by Mrs Martina
Stanley, Director of Alecto Australia:
The other issue is around [workforce] research and data. ... When
you start looking at the little bit of data that we have it is actually highly
unreliable because of the way that it is collected. Different bits of data,
whether it is AIHW, Medicare or whatever, all use different criteria for collecting
the data, so you cannot put it back together again and then use it for anything
useful because basically you are comparing apples with oranges.
COAG and medical workforce planning
Responsibility for Australia’s health workforce is shared by the Commonwealth,
state and territory governments. In brief, the Australian Government is
principally responsible for policy relating to, and funding of, university
education for medical students. State and territory governments are largely
responsible for the delivery of health services and are major employers and
trainers of medical practitioners, primarily through the public hospital system.
In view of this shared responsibility for health workforce planning, the
Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has played a key role.
In 2004, COAG’s Australian Health Ministers’ Conference (AHMC) developed
its National Health Workforce Strategic Framework.
The Framework established a 10 year plan to address Australia’s health
workforce needs based on the following seven principles:
n achieving and
sustaining self-sufficiency in health workforce supply;
distribution that optimises access to health care and meets the health needs of
n health environments
being places in which people want to work;
n ensuring the health
workforce is always skilled and competent;
n optimal use of skills
and workforce adaptability;
n recognising that
health workforce policy and planning must be informed by the best available
evidence and linked to the broader health system; and
n recognising that
health workforce policy involves all stakeholders working collaboratively with
a commitment to the vision, principles and strategies outlined in this
In 2006 COAG established the National Health Workforce Taskforce (NHWT)
to undertake projects to inform the development of practical solutions on
workforce innovation and reform. Specifically the NHWT was to develop health
workforce strategies encompassing:
n planning, research
n education and
n innovation and
The work of the NHWT was overseen by the Health Workforce Principal
Committee (HWPC), the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council's principal
advisor on national health workforce policy and strategic priorities. The NHWT
was a time limited, project based entity which ceased operation with the
establishment of Health Workforce Australia (HWA). HWA is in the process of
assuming NHWT activities as part of its broader work program.
Health Workforce Australia
In late 2008, under the National Partnership Agreement on Hospital and
Health Workforce Reform, COAG announced that it would establish HWA to manage
and oversee major reforms to the Australian health workforce.
In 2010 HWA commenced operation as a statutory authority reporting to the
Australian Health Ministers' Conference (AHMC).
According to its mission statement HWA’s organisational objective is:
To facilitate more effective and integrated clinical training
for health professionals, provide effective and accurate information and advice
to guide health workforce policy and planning, and promote, support and
evaluate health workforce reform.
In addition to assuming the work of the former NHWT, COAG announced the
following major reforms which HWA will manage and oversee:
n Improving the
capacity and productivity of the health sector to provide clinical education
for increased university and vocational education and training places.
immigration of overseas trained health professionals and continuing to develop
recruitment and retention strategies.
Reforming the Workforce
n System, funding and
payment mechanisms to support new models of care and new and expanded roles.
n Redesigning roles and
creating evidence based alternative scopes of practice.
n Developing strategies
for aligned incentives surrounding productivity and performance of health
professionals and multi-disciplinary teams.
Since commencing operation HWA has developed a work plan for 2011-12. In
general terms, activities being undertaken as part of HWA’s 2011-12 work plan
are aimed at improving Australia’s ability to more effectively manage medical
workforce issues. The work plan identifies a number of projects to be
progressed under the following four priority areas:
n information, analysis
and planning - including analysis of supply and demand trends to inform
decision making on a range of workforce policy and program matters;
n clinical training reform
- improving and expanding access to quality clinical training for health
professionals in training across the public, private and non-government
n workforce innovation
and reform - encouraging the development of health workforce models which will
support new models of healthcare delivery and equip health professionals and
employers to meet emerging healthcare demands; and
n international health
professionals - developing a coordinated national approach to the recruitment
and retention of international health professionals to work in Australia’s
public and non-government health sectors.
Projects being progressed under the information, analysis and planning
work program include:
n a national training
plan which aims to provide a set of planning objectives for training of health
professionals, including doctors, to achieve self sufficiency by 2025; and
n a national
statistical resource which aims to develop a national health workforce dataset,
including registration and workforce survey data from the Australian Health
Practitioners Registration Authority (AHPRA). The dataset will be used to
develop an improved understanding of the health workforce. Access to more
robust data will also contribute to the development and application of a
National Health Workforce Planning Tool.
Action to address health workforce shortages under the clinical training
reform work program is being progressed through:
n the Clinical Training
Funding Subsidy program which aims to address health workforce shortages by
providing subsidies to increase the number of clinical training places for
health professional students, including medical students; and
n the Clinical
Supervision Support program which aims to enhance post-graduate supervision
capacity for a number of health professions, including doctors, by offering
measures to support and develop a competent clinical supervision workforce.
The workforce innovation and reforms work program has been informed by
HWA’s National Health Workforce Innovation and Reform Strategic Framework for
Action 2011–2015 (the Framework). The Framework, which was developed on the
basis of research and consultation is intended to:
... provide an overarching, national platform that will guide
future health workforce policy and planning in Australia. It sets out key
priority areas and five essential domains that create the foundation for an
integrated, high performing workforce fit to meet Australia’s health care
The five domains for action under the Framework are:
n health workforce
reform for more effective, efficient and accessible service delivery;
n health workforce
capacity and skills development;
n leadership for the
sustainability of the health system;
n health workforce
n health workforce
policy, funding and regulation.
The Regional, Rural and Remote Health Workforce Innovation and Reform
Strategy complements the Framework. This strategy aims to promote better use of
the existing workforce and will also work to build workforce capacity to
respond and adapt to the changing demands of rural and remote communities.
HWA completed an initial consultation process in late 2010 to inform the
development of a National Strategy for International Recruitment (the National
Strategy). The aim of the National Strategy is to provide a nationally
consistent approach to the recruitment and retention of international health
professionals, including doctors.
To complement the National Strategy’s aim of developing a consistent and
coordinated approach to international recruitment of health professionals, the
HWA’s work plan also supports a project to establish a single website portal
under its International Health Professionals Website Development Project.
It is clear to the Committee that health workforce planning is crucial
if governments are to implement health workforce policies which ensure that the
supply and distribution of medical practitioners is appropriate to meet
community healthcare needs and expectations. Current workforce policies have
been influenced by the continuing need for IMGs to supplement the domestically
trained medical practitioner workforce.
Evidence to the inquiry suggests that current workforce planning
assessment tools have failed to adequately account for the range of dynamic
factors which can influence supply and demand. Limitations on workforce
planning models have been exacerbated by significant deficiencies in national
workforce data. While the Committee acknowledges the complexities of health
workforce planning, particularly in a dynamic environment, the Committee
considers that there is definite scope for improvement.
The Committee is pleased to note that the Australian Government, through
COAG, in association with its state and territory counterparts, has already
taken steps to address the deficiencies in workforce planning with the
establishment of HWA. Although HWA has only been in operation since 2010, the
Committee is encouraged by progress made to date in relation to HWA’s work
plan. In particular, the Committee notes the progress on projects to improve
the access to robust national health workforce data and to develop more
sophisticated workforce planning models.
The Committee notes that there are a number of HWA programs which aim to
address medical workforce shortages by increasing education and training
opportunities, with the ultimate goal of achieving health workforce self
sufficiency in Australia by 2025. Although supportive of this goal in
principle, the Committee has already observed that in the short to medium term
Australia needs to rely on IMGs to address current medical workforce shortages.
In view of this the Committee supports a national approach to recruitment and
retention of IMGs currently being considered under HWA’s National Strategy for