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ACT aims for healthier workforce

Helping to improve the health of nurses to cut absenteeism and providing people with more self-care options are among strategies proposed to relieve pressures in the ACT health workforce, a government report has found.

The ACT Government Health Directorate discussion paper and the subsequent public submissions will help to design the territory’s health workforce plan for 2012-2017.

The report acknowledged the issue of workforce retention and said new graduates are leaving after one or two years in the system. The plan will focus on health professionals and support workers but its strategies also aim to assist other health services.

The paper highlights an increasing demand for services because of an ageing population, coupled with a health workforce that is ageing even faster. It also outlines the need to source skilled workers from other jurisdictions, an increasing reliance on informal carers and a lack of integration between health services as problems.

“There needs to be a sustainable increase in productivity combined with a focus on improving the health of the population to reduce the long-term demand for health services through prevention and early intervention measures,” the paper says.

Redesigning services, lifting the workforce participation rate and putting a greater emphasis on succession planning and retention are proposed measures. Other issues include the high proportion of workers in the aged care sector that are vocationally trained, and an acute care sector that has a higher RN to EN ratio than the national average.

The latest ACT plan follows the Health Workforce Plan 2005-2010 which set about building a sustainable local health workforce.

A public draft of the workforce plan will be available next month.

Natasha Egan

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