2022 Health Workforce Regional Highlights

06 January 2023

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This edition of Health Works highlights some key findings of the rural and remote workforce in Queensland drawn from the 2022 Regional Health Workforce Needs Assessments (HWNA).

The HWNA, undertaken annually by Health Workforce Queensland (HWQ), includes an online survey targeting General Practitioners (GP), practice managers, primary health care nurses and midwives, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers/Practitioners and allied health practitioners (AHPs) working in Modified Monash (MM 2-7) locations in Queensland. The Regional HWNA’s supplement the state-wide report and provide an overview of health workforce needs in the four mainly rural PHN regions in Queensland.

At the time of writing the regional reports, 826 survey responses had been received with the majority (37%) from Northern Queensland (NQ), followed by Central Queensland, Wide Bay and Sunshine Coast (CQWBSC) (28%) and Darling Downs West Moreton (DDWM) (26%), with the remaining 9 percent of respondents from Western Queensland (WQ).

GPs were the highest participant group (52%), followed by AHPs (27%), practice managers (15%) and nurses and midwives (6%).

Potential serious workforce gaps for psychology and social work were noted across all four regional PHN regions, with speech pathology and general practice as potential serious workforce gaps across three of the four regions. Two differences of note across the regions include 1) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health rating as the second highest workforce gap in both WQ and NQ most likely reflective of the larger concentration of First Nations peoples in these geographical areas and 2) the appearance of audiology as the fifth highest workforce gap in WQ; the only PHN region where audiology featured within the top five.

Survey participants identified potential serious service gaps in mental health, community-based rehabilitation, social support and services for alcohol and other drugs across all four PHN regions. NQ and CQWBSC PHN produced identical rankings with aged care ranking fourth and rounding out their top five service gaps. Health prevention/promotion ranked fifth in DDWM; the only region for which this service gap featured in the top five.

Practice viability and sustainability was a key concern for many private providers in 2022. Medicare funding reform, strategies to encourage remote and rural careers and strategies to improve retention of staff were rated as important factors impacting practice sustainability across all four PHN regions. Regional differences of note include:

  • Targeted infrastructure funding for staff housing/accommodation and increased support for family members appearing in the top five for WQ ;

  • Local cooperation for shared workforce models ranking as the fifth most important factor for practice sustainability in NQ;

  • Survey respondents from CQWBSC ranking better access to place-based education and training as a key factor to improve sustainability; and

  • Addressing pay disparities and support for supervision ranking as the fourth and fifth most important factors for primary health care professionals in the DDWM region.

The 2022 Health Workforce Needs Assessment and four Regional HWNAs can be found for further reading.