Incentives needed to fill regional workforce shortfall  


20 April 2022

The ANMF (SA Branch) is calling for urgent incentives to address nurse shortages and fatigue in regional South Australia. 

ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM told ABC Radio there has been a suspension of some medical services with increased urgency as we head into the flu season. She says incentives to delay nurse retirement and for people to work in COVID high-risk areas are being discussed with the State Government. 

"We are calling on the Government to announce as early as possible the employment, the full employment, of all graduating nurses and midwives at the end of this year and the full employment of those people who are completing their graduate program this current year,’’ Ms Dabars told ABC Radio.

“There are extreme pressures on country nurses and midwives, and there has been significant concern for a long time, with many hospitals running short staffed or relying very heavily on people working double shifts or overtime. And there is a lot of reliance on people working on call and recall, which leads to a significant issue of fatigue.  

“And in some instances it has resulted in the closure, whether temporary or permanent, of services to rural and regional communities. In Waikerie, for example, they have been forced to close their midwifery services due to the lack of available staff. And we have had issues down the south coast as well with midwifery services in particular,’’ Ms Dabars said. 

“But we also are well aware of people just running so short they feel really fatigued and they feel really under pressure. And I think the bottom line in all of this is they feel very, very worried for the communities they are serving. And these are people who largely both live and work in their community. And so they know the importance of the hospital and health services to that community because they are part of it. And it is a very, very significant source of frustration and anxiety when they don't feel like they are able to provide an appropriate service to their community.  

“The other issue is that there is often a large influx of tourists during public holidays which again leads to additional pressure. So it is a very significant concern.  

“There has been, to be perfectly frank, a failure on both sides of government to address the issues of workforce for a long time, but we certainly didn't see any genuine action in the last four years. So we are very hopeful, we have put the call out to the new incoming Government about this issue as recently as today,’’ Ms Dabars said. 

“I was again talking to the Minister's Office about the absolute desperate need to put in place some incentives in the short term and incentives for people to work in COVID-prone areas in particular but also to strongly encourage and add incentives to encourage people who are anticipating or planning retirement to remain working in the system because this issue of workforce shortages is not just a regional issue, it is also a metropolitan issue, it is a South Australian-wide issue, it is a national issue and, in fact, it is an international issue. 

“So, we have asked for these incentives to be put in place because we know we have got a peak period coming up or currently with the COVID situation, but that is going to be intensified by the flu season,’’ Ms Dabars told the ABC.

“The other aspect to this is the need to once we are over that short-term hurdle is to look at those medium to long-term strategies (full employment of graduating nurses) … to make sure we can provide an appropriate workforce for the future for SA.  

“We do believe there should be recruitment and retention allowances specifically in country South Australia, so we have made specific requests for that. Again, the former government rejected them, they are back on the table with the current Government. 

“If those (incentive) strategies are put in place then we will be in a much better position to be able to provide appropriate care and services to the community and to actually provide appropriate resources and support to those who are delivering that care.’’