Queensland hospitals are in the grip of a major health workforce crisis. This ‘exciting’ news won’t change that

Queensland hospitals are in the grip of a major health workforce crisis. This ‘exciting’ news won’t change that

It was enough spin to make onlookers dizzy.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Health Minister, Yvette D’Ath, called a news conference yesterday to announce “exciting news” – the recruitment of more than 800 new intern doctors and 200 ambulance officers for the health sector.

With the state in the grip of a major health workforce crisis, Queenslanders unaware of how the health system works may have been misled by the so-called “breaking” news that hundreds more interns were about to join the ranks.

The reality is, although this is the largest ever intake and a 5 per cent increase on 2022 numbers, Queensland Health normally employs almost all medical students who graduate from local universities each year.

Followers of Ms Palaszczuk on Twitter were quick to call out the Prime Minister when she posted her “breaking” announcement yesterday morning.

“BREAKING: Queensland to get 1,000 new frontline health workers over next month,” she wrote.

Dr. Suresh Khirwadkar replied, “Aren’t they just interns who would start at this time every year anyway?”

And opposition health spokeswoman Ros Bates, a former nurse, tweeted: “What the Premier doesn’t say in this brilliant tweet is that this happens every year and it’s actually business as usual. In fact the grade two weeks ago start.”

The record employment of interns will have little bearing on what is currently at the heart of Queensland’s health workforce crisis – the state does not have enough experienced doctors where they are needed most – outside the southeast corner.

As usual, the new interns will be deployed in hospitals across the state – from Cairns in the far north to the Gold Coast in the south and west to Mount Isa.

The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital will train 94 interns this year, the highest intake of any facility, ahead of Gold Coast University Hospital (92), Princess Alexandra Hospital (89), Townsville University Hospital (80) and Sunshine Coast University Hospital (72 ).

Do you know more?

If you have experience or further information you would like to share, please contact Janelle Miles at [email protected]

Undoubtedly, each year’s intern intake is an investment in the health system of the future. But these are not the doctors with enough experience to deliver a baby unattended or perform complex surgery. It requires many years of training than graduating with a medical degree.

That’s why Gladstone, a central Queensland city of 62,000 people, hasn’t had a fully functioning maternity service since the middle of last year.

This is why Biloela Hospital is also on a birth bypass and why many Queenslanders in the region travel hundreds of kilometers to larger centers for elective surgery and other important health care needs.

How will the new interns ease hospital workforce shortages and what is the Palaszczuk Government doing to fill the gaps?

Despite weeks of intense scrutiny over health workforce shortages in Queensland, the minister had no answers to journalists’ questions about how many doctors have left Queensland Health in the past year.

“I will get the accurate numbers, I don’t want to just guess,” she said.

“Retention is as big an issue as attraction. We know that.

“There are people who leave the profession because they are tired, they are burnt out.”

The ABC asked Queensland Health questions about doctor shortages across the state, specifically which regions are worst affected and which medical specialties are in the shortest supply.

Apart from being told Queensland Health had 270.8 full-time equivalent medical officer vacancies on January 22 this year – equivalent to 2.29 per cent of the department’s medical officer workforce – it was impossible to obtain the more detailed information.

Ms D’Ath was unable to shed any further light on Queensland’s figures when questioned at yesterday’s news conference, citing overseas data instead.

“There is a shortage of health workers across the country and around the world,” she said.

“We know the National Health Service in the UK has 96,000 vacancies. This is extraordinary. At the same time, we are reaching out to British health workers and saying come and work in Australia.

“It’s a challenge.”

Specialist doctors are also poached by other health services.

“I only saw a report yesterday – $1 million being offered to a specialist. I mean, that’s extraordinary,” Ms D’Ath said.

Extraordinary, yes. But it is equally extraordinary that the government has not provided transparency on arguably the most important political issue in the state – Queenslanders’ health.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *