The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM; the College) is calling for urgent and cooperative action from state, territory, and federal governments to support healthcare workers to cross state and national borders and to assist overseas healthcare workers to reach Australia, including the creation of extra positions in quarantine in addition to those already available for returning Australians.
Healthcare workers are urgently needed to reinforce Australia’s struggling healthcare system and workforce, some of whom are exhausted, to help ensure Australians have the safe and timely healthcare they need. Currently, many healthcare workers are unable to enter some states in Australia due to a range of border issues related to COVID-19. The College has been informed of cases where international healthcare workers already contracted to healthcare positions in Australia are unable to enter the country and begin work.
ACEM President Dr John Bonning said, “Australia relies on international and interstate movement of the healthcare workforce. The support from this movement is more important than ever this year as Australia’s hospital and healthcare systems are under tremendous and unprecedented pressure due to increasing general demand and the COVID-19 pandemic. This issue affects the entire healthcare system, including emergency departments (EDs) with rural and regional areas feeling the impacts of this most significantly.”
“The existing workforce is spread thin due to demand, large numbers of exhausted staff needing leave and domestic border restrictions curtailing opportunities for inter-jurisdictional movement. We are also seeing large numbers of the frontline healthcare workforce furloughed, or facing the possibility of furlough, due to potential COVID-19 exposure. There are no reserves in local workforce for when this happens, which leaves large sections of the workforce understaffed. This is dangerous for staff and patients.”
“Urgent assistance is needed to help support healthcare workers to cross state and national borders and to assist overseas healthcare workers to reach Australia. If this situation is not prioritised and solved, then healthcare workers on the ground are concerned that international colleagues may give up on specific states, or Australia altogether, and seek opportunities elsewhere. This additional pressure on existing staff risks will increase the likelihood of further resignations, worsening the workforce problem.
“The College notes some jurisdictions have already announced initiatives and incentives to encourage more healthcare workers to travel to Australia. We urge federal, state and territory jurisdictions to work together to find solutions to this urgent issue, including adding extra positions in quarantine in addition to those already available for returning Australians. We must ensure our staff and patients are properly supported with the healthcare workforce so desperately needed at the moment.”
ACEM is the peak body for emergency medicine in Australia and New Zealand, responsible for training emergency physicians and advancement of professional standards. www.acem.org.au