The northern rivers region is facing an acute shortage of health workers over the next decade as the population ages and current workers retire.
To counter the dilemma, the Lismore City Council last week hosted a forum that brought together local health leaders to devise strategies on local people could benefit most from workforce opportunities in the region’s health sector.
Lismore City Council’s Economic Development manager Mark Batten said the strategies were aimed at supporting and training local people to pursue a career in the health sector.
‘We need to reach out to young people and those returning to work. We also need to retain the knowledge that may be lost from a retiring workforce,’ Mr Batten said.
‘Health jobs are not only diverse in nature, but these jobs can be very rewarding and enable local people to secure employment in their local communities.
‘For many people, a job in the health industries may be very appealing, but they need support to be work-ready.
The council’s manager of sustainable development Brent McAlister told Echonetdaily that health was by far the biggest business in Lismore and the northern rivers region.
‘There will be an acute shortage of health workers in the next 10 to 15 years so we’ve set up this workshop to address that,’ he said.
‘It’s expected that the shortages will be particularly acute among nurses and the allied health sector, in the order of tens of thousands nationally, so it is up to recruitment and health providers to prepare for that.’
North Coast Medicare Local chief executive Vahid Saberi said the region was planning for a ‘new frontier’ for social and health services.
‘We’ve got great services but no-one talks to each other,’ he said.
‘People get lost in the system and the whole thing is fragmented.
‘This is about bringing people together to say we have to move into a new paradigm of thinking, and the wonderful thing was that everyone was in complete agreement.
Mr Saberi said two action groups were formed to progress workplace training and other initiatives to increase employment opportunities in the health sector.
The Lismore workshop included health service providers, educators, students, job seekers, employees, consumers and other stakeholders .
Speakers included St Vincents Private Hospital chief executive Steve Brierley, North Coast Medicare Local chief executive Vahid Saberi, Vicki Rose from the Northern NSW Local Health District, Professor Lesley Barclay from the University Centre for Rural Health and Professor Iain Graham, Dean of Health at Southern Cross University.