The Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) is calling for age caps on working holiday and migration visas to be removed to encourage more nurses to come to Australia.
APHA CEO Michael Roff said Australia’s private hospitals were experiencing a nursing workforce shortage of 8,000 nurses.
“But it’s not just a workforce shortage, it’s a subspecialty shortage. We are short of midwives, perioperative nurses and mental health nurses, so we want to encourage as many experienced nurses as possible to choose Australia.
“People think about the end of their careers differently now. Experienced nurses might want to spend a few years at the tail end of their career living and working in a different country, but we put up barriers to that rather than welcoming them in," he said.
Depending on the pathway chosen, age limits range from 50 or under for permanent visas to 30 or under for a working holiday visa.
The APHA submission to the Department of Home Affairs consultation on ‘A Migration System for Australia’s Future’ called for age limits for permanent residency and working holiday visas for nurses and other health professionals to be reviewed and, where appropriate, removed.
The submission argued that the reform is needed to ensure the migration system can meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
“The changing demographics of the health workforce, economic trends and changing attitudes towards career and life-work balance mean that people are making new and varied choices at different stages of life,” it reads.
In addition, Mr Roff said impediments like labour market testing should be removed, because the shortage of health workers was well known.
“We know there aren’t enough workers in private hospitals, public hospitals or aged care, and yet to bring in a skilled nurse from overseas you are forced to advertise on three different websites for a matter of weeks to demonstrate there’s a vacancy. That is clearly ridiculous in the current situation.”
Mr Roff said there was a ‘hunger games’ approach to recruiting nurses among the states and a national workforce strategy was the only way to solve the problem across the health sector.
“What we have seen at the moment is the state governments announcing one-off schemes offering nurses in their states bonuses or HECS fee relief and it’s a bit of a hunger games where everybody is just cannibalising the workforce off each other. What we would like is for everyone to step back and have a national approach to solving this problem in the long term.”
Mr Roff was joined by Ramsay Health Care Chief Nurse and Clinical Services Director, Dr Bernadette Eather, to discuss the issue on morning program Today this week.
After hearing their arguments, host Karl Stefanovic was frustrated.
“Do you know what I hate? I hate when people inside the sector know so much about it, make perfect sense, and nothing gets done."
Mr Roff said the sentiment was shared by industry, but there was some way to go in Government negotiations yet.
“The Government has not finalised its migration changes and we look forward to continuing our consultations with them as they make their deliberations,” he said.