Nurse job vacancies doubled during pandemic – Sydney Morning Herald

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Job vacancies for nurses and aged care workers have doubled in three years, new data shows, as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese moves to expand the Pacific Labour Scheme ahead of the government’s Jobs Summit.
Hospital and aged care operators are desperate for staff as the wave of COVID infections from the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants sends thousands of workers into isolation, while the nurses union warns that staff are at breaking point.
“Our workforce is crushed at the moment,” Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation President Annie Butler said.
With the peak of the wave expected to hit at the end of July, Butler said she was worried about how high hospitalisation – currently sitting at 4500 nationally, compared with the January peak of 5000 patients – could go.
“I’m genuinely not sure our members can sustain that,” Butler said.
Online job advertisements for registered nurses increased from 4242 in May 2019 to 8130 in May 2022, while ads seeking aged and disabled carers rose from 1987 to 4575, according to data collected by the National Skills Commission.
Vacancies posted online for nursing support and personal care workers almost tripled in the same period, from 618 to 1650, while ads in other nursing specialities such as midwifery also increased.
Australia is competing with other developed countries for overseas-trained healthcare workers amid a global nursing shortage that has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
International Council of Nurses chief executive Howard Catton said there was already a global shortage of about 6 million nurses before the pandemic began.
“We think it could have doubled to more like 12 or 13 million,” he said, blaming a long-term failure to plan and invest in the nursing workforce.
The federal government will host a Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra at the start of September to find solutions to workforce shortages across the nation.
On Friday, Albanese announced that the government was expanding a program that brings workers from Pacific island nations to Australia to address critical skills shortages, opening it up to sectors including aged care, tourism and hospitality.
“This is good for our Pacific island neighbours because what it enables is more women to participate in the scheme,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Fiji.
“It’s also good for Australia because these are areas in which there are massive skills shortages”.
Howard said while there was a role for migration in filling nursing positions, relying heavily on overseas workers was “a high-risk strategy” as the market became more competitive.
There is a worldwide shortage of nurses after two years of the pandemic.Credit:Justin McManus
“It’s not the same surefire guarantee, quick fix solution it was in the past,” he said.
A major private hospital and aged care operator who spoke on condition of anonymity said workforce shortages were critical, with more than 11 per cent of enrolled nurse positions and 6 per cent of registered nurse positions vacant.
The provider called for personal care workers to be added to the skilled migration list and said that while registered nurses were already on it, “bureaucratic red tape” was stopping nurses from migrating to Australia and recruitment agencies were charging tens of thousands per worker.
“It’s taking over nine months for a nurse to get a permanent residency visa in Australia, but three weeks to get one in the United Kingdom,” they said.
Australasian College of Emergency Medicine President Dr Clare Skinner said the pandemic had exposed and worsened the existing health care workforce crisis, with understaffing pushing even more workers to leave due to burnout.
“Australia must also train an adequate health workforce to meet its own needs, and the needs of the region, as well as allowing for some international movement of trained clinicians,” she said.
Former NSW premier and chief executive of aged care provider HammondCare, Mike Baird, on Thursday called on the government to revise the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme to allow metropolitan aged care homes to be involved, after a pilot in remote areas.
There are 25,000 workers from the Pacific who are in Australia on the labour scheme, which the government will expand to allow for workers to travel with their families, who were previously excluded.
With AAP
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