Speaker Professor James Buchan of Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, said Australia and other developed countries’ practice of recruiting doctors and nurses from abroad is now under international scrutiny as a result of the World Health Organisation endorsing a global Code of Practice for international recruitment of health workers.
“Australia has relied more heavily than many other developed countries on the international recruitment of health workers. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has reported that more than 40 per cent of doctors and about 25 per cent of nurses in Australia are foreign-born, compared with figures of almost 35 per cent and 15 per cent in the UK,” said Professor Buchan.
“Australia faces two big challenges; how to get enough health professionals with the right skills, and also how to retain sufficient numbers, particularly to work in remote regions.
“If international recruitment is to be effective and ethical, it must be planned as part of an overall workforce strategy, and should ensure that health workers coming to Australia gain a benefit from being here, and that they are able to maximise their potential contribution to their new country as individuals. It also means not leaving their countries of origin short-staffed and having ‘wasted’ the investment in training and education.”
Professor Buchan has twenty-five years’ international experience of policy advice, consultancy and research on human resource for health (HRH) issues, specialising in national policies and strategies, and has worked as a senior HR manager at national level in the National Health Service in Scotland, as Senior Policy Adviser at the Royal College of Nursing, UK, and as a HRH specialist at the World Health Organisation in Geneva.
UniSA’s Professor Helen McCutcheon, Head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery, will respond to Professor Buchan’s address. Professor McCutcheon said Australia should be prepared to produce high quality healthcare workers as well as giving opportunities to those from overseas.
“Australia has a responsibility to produce the bulk of our own healthcare workforce; that is something that a first world country is reasonably expected to do,” said Prof McCutcheon.
“However, we should not prevent people from other countries having the opportunity to further develop their skills in Australia, which, as a multicultural country, wants to provide opportunities for qualified health professionals from overseas. We need to strike a balance.”
The second respondent will be Dr Andrew Lavender, Deputy Director of the Department of Anaesthesia, Pain and Hyperbaric Medicine and Senior Staff Specialist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
An “Ethical” Approach to Health Workforce Sustainability”: Desirable? Achievable?, jointly presented by UniSA’s Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre and Health Workforce Australia, is on Wednesday 27 July at Adelaide Town Hall, 5pm for a 5.30pm start. For more information, please visit the Hawke Centre’s website.