Health workforce full of holes despite high salaries

4 minute read

Governments and unis need to help make the sector more attractive, particularly outside cities.

General practice vacancies rose slightly towards the end of the year, suggesting shortages will continue into 2024, says leading healthcare recruiter Omega Medical.

Health worker salaries overall remain at an historic high, according to Omega’s 2023 Q4 Jobs and Salary Index report, released earlier this week, the current shortage of medical professionals will continue into 2024, plaguing both the public and private sectors.

A national increase in demand of 2.2% over the quarter, compensating for a fall in the Omega Medical Index of 1.4% in Q3, demonstrated a continued demand for healthcare workers across most sectors – somewhat good news for jobseekers.

“Demand remains at a very high level but below the peak achieved in May this year,” said the report.

“Overall, the national index is just 0.2% above this time last year, another clear demonstration of a very stable medical employment market.”

Omega’s managing director John Codner told TMR there was an ongoing need for all types of medical staff.

“That’s been apparent since we started measuring this index in Q1 2021,” he said.

“The population is growing and getting older – there’s going to be more and more demand for services, especially regionally and rurally,” he said.

But without better support from the top – governments and educational institutions – the healthcare workforce crisis is set to continue as our population ages and expands, added Mr Codner.

“It needs to be more attractive for people to take permanent jobs particularly in the regional and rural areas.”

Despite generally high demand, two sectors shrank over the quarter. The aged care sector was down 2%, with a 7% increase in vacancies.

The report posited that this was a return to the norm following a growth in the sector caused by a push to hire registered nurses in aged care last July.

Demand for hospital staff also fell, by 1.5% overall, and hospital and practice management vacancies rose by less than 1%.

“This is a definite levelling out after a massive surge in the first half of 2023. Demand peaked in June and has eased since,” noted the report.

“Despite these minor declines, hospitals still represent over 50% of all vacancies, with the record high set earlier in 2023.”

Allied health job vacancies and nursing jobs also fell, by 3.1% and 2.1% respectively, chalked up to a “normalisation of job volumes following the pandemic-induced surge”.

Also attributed to a post-pandemic calming, and a “gradual fulfilment of skills shortages through permanent migration”, was a decline in locum positions of 3.4% in the quarter and 6.3% over the year.

In fact, the analysis showed permanent roles surged almost 5% over the quarter, with general practice job vacancies jumping a hefty 6.4%.

But the most “remarkable” rise was a 17.5% rise in medical practitioner job vacancies.

“This surge [in medical practitioner vacancies], along with a year-on-year rise of 15.5%, indicates a critical shortage despite a net migration of 500,000 nationally,” the report noted.

Mr Codner said there seemed to be a greater demand for flexibility, pulling people away from jobs that contain them to the same location for long periods of time, such as general practice.

“The days of having worked in the same location for 20, 30, 40 years over a long period of time – not many people see that as their long-term career any more,” he said.

“I think generally people want flexibility. Some of the permanent employers and some of the LHDs are now also offering flexible contracts.”

Demand for medical technicians also rose by 8%.

“Roles in [the medical technicians] group include pharmacists, medical laboratory technicians, and pathology collectors,” noted the report.

“Salaries in these occupations are likely to rise in response to the significant rise in demand for their services.”

Given the high demand, pay rates – both salaried and hourly – are expected to remain at “historically high levels” according to Omega Medical, a win for healthcare professionals.

While a quarterly decline was carried by NSW and Victoria, constituting 50% of all medical job vacancies, WA did what it could to make up for the fall with a 4.1% rise.

“By contrast to states such as Victoria, WA’s state budget, boosted by the mining and resources sector, is in an advantageous position allowing the WA Government to hire as needed and to reward well,” said the report.

End of content

No more pages to load

Log In Register ×