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HomeVolume 29Government silent on health crisis

Government silent on health crisis

By ERWIN CHLANDA

Some 20% of medical staff at Alice Springs hospital are doctors from interstate as concerns about safety and poor accommodation are make recruitment of permanent staff difficult.

AMA NT president Robert Parker says earlier this year “the drama about the alcohol relaxation didn’t help.

“People often make their plans for employment 12 months in advance.

“Reporting of home invasions in Alice Springs doesn’t make people feel particularly safe, and all the recent publicity including the curfew at night probable make people more aware of safety in Alice Springs.”

Associate Professor Parker says the other major issue is accommodation, such as small areas, small rooms, single bed rooms, shared bathrooms: “People prefer large spaces to relax in.

“The accommodation issue is very important, having sustainable, continuous safe housing for staff.”

Competitive awards are also reasons why people may go elsewhere.

“We work with locums and they are very expensive. We find locums to do the work. You use consultant and registrar staff. You can usually find residents.”

Meanwhile the Department of Health is either unable or unwilling to answer simple questions about staff shortages at the hospital which some have described as being at crisis level.

We asked the department at 8:11am today: “What is the number of Alice Springs Hospital employees when all positions are filled?

“How many positions are currently vacant or filled by Fly in, Fly out personnel?”

At publication we still have no responses.

Meanwhile the Community and Public Sector Union did not provide a comment requested by the News, saying it was “hoping you could elaborate more on the crisis”.

 

UPDATE: An NT Health spokesperson provided this statement at 4.52pm today (Tuesday, June 25):

As at 31 May 2024, there were around 1,360 full-time-equivalent (FTE) positions at Alice Springs Hospital (ASH). Of these positions, around 83% were employed by NT Health, including some staff who travel from interstate.

Around 9% of the workforce was agency based and there was a vacancy rate of around 8%.

There is a national shortage of healthcare workers across Australia and this has presented challenges for NT Health. NT Health has been actively working to manage staffing levels while undertaking targeted recruitment campaigns.

Utilisation of agency health staff is a consistent method of workforce management across Australia, and uptake fluctuates based on operational requirements.

The utilisation of agency staff ensures Territorians continue to have access to quality care, including those living in regional and remote areas.

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