Members may know that the Victorian Government is working on the development of a Health Workforce Strategy. The Union has been very involved in these discussions, attending meetings and actively advocating on behalf of members.

Recently, the Union was invited to provide a written submission on the Health Workforce Strategy. I want to thank Matt Hammond for putting together our submission.

We raised our many concerns as to the current situation with the health workforce with particular attention given to:

  • Enterprise Agreement compliance culture within health services
  • Chronic backfill delays
  • Training in team management skills
  • Abolition of training grants (bursary years) for Medical Pathology Science students
  • Psychologist career structure
  • Pharmacist resourcing levels
  • The need for a Chief Psychologist and Chief Pharmacist.

Agreement compliance
It is our view that, increasingly, there is less real and meaningful understanding of the importance and role of enterprise agreements in the workplace. It appears to us that, often, agreement compliance is regarded as optional or inconvenient by some health services.

Organisational change is often initiated without the provision of all relevant information and asserted as a fait accompli with tight timeframes and inadequate resourcing. Language often talks about the needs of “the business” and places operational managers in situations of being decision makers about matters that they are not best placed to decide.

This causes significant distress to members and causes unnecessary disputes.

Backfill delays
Many health services wilfully delay filling vacant positions in order to save money. Some health services require managers to routinely make a “business case” for filling of vacant operational positions.

This type of slavish adherence to “business rules” routinely results in important hospital functions running short staffed for significant periods of time resulting in increased employee workloads and dissatisfaction.

Training in team management skills
Health services employ many highly educated and skilled people across all areas. However, there is very little practical training given about how to lead a team.

There is little or no assessment of skills in team management and little practical support given for development of the skills needed to successfully lead teams.

Psychologist career structure
Arising from the recent Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health Services, there is very significant unmet demand for professional services in this space.

At the same time, psychologists are increasingly finding it difficult to justify pursuing a career in public health when there are better paid and less stressful options available to them through private practice. The career structure is not satisfying with limited ability to progress into senior clinical positions within health services.

Pharmacist resourcing levels
Pharmacy demands have grown immensely over recent years with more and more functions within health services operating on a seven day per week basis.

This commonly manifests significantly in demand for out of hours discharges and increased demands for Emergency Department services coinciding directly with reductions in available bulk billing GP services.

Greater adherence to SHPA (Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia) ratios for pharmacy functions should be implemented in all health services to ensure that, in the same way as nursing staff formulas work, there is sufficient resourcing for the work required.

These are matters the Union actively pursued in the negotiations for our new Public Health Sector Agreement.

The Union will continue to actively pursue these issues with the Victorian Government. However, there is significant concern that such issues would be ignored by a Guy Liberal government.

Many of these issues were ignored by previous Liberal governments and there is no indication that a Guy Liberal government would consider or address these issues.

Members can read the entire submission here.

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