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14 August, 2021

Well done to our health professionals

LAST Sunday, a short sharp hard lockdown was called for Cairns. It caught the community by surprise.

By Peter McCullagh

Last Sunday, a short sharp hard lockdown was called for Cairns. It caught the community by surprise. Our health services in Cairns had already been on watch and alert and were prepared to ramp up and respond quickly and effectively with this outbreak.

Our health professionals are doing a splendid job not just with COVID but also ensuring general and specialist health services continue in a seamless manner.

Given the events of the past year, the timing is right for a Senate enquiry into GP shortages in Regional Australia.

A quick scan of the Queensland Smart Jobs website reveals over 630 current vacancies within our government health service state-wide.

Within the private practice and GP clinics the figure would be greater. On the job platform Seek, we have over 6500 jobs listed in the medical industry.

Whilst a great percentage would not be for health practitioners, one can only imagine the full extent of our job vacancies for healthcare workers.

How do we address this issue? 

Now more than ever we have tangible proof that we do need more frontline health workers, and they should be handsomely rewarded for the essential service they provide.

More than 15 years ago, Cairns Hinterland Hospital Health Service staged a major recruitment drive though the UK, attracting skilled and experienced medical staff to move to Cairns and work within our public system.

This worked; however, our gain was the NHS’s loss, with many fine practitioners leaving to come to work here in the colonies.

What we do need is a financial incentive for our brightest and most talented graduating secondary school students to enrol in universities to study nursing or medicine with the view to upon graduation taking placements in our regional centres.

These graduates should be incentivised to work in regional and remote areas. 

The simplest incentive would be a reduction in their HECS Debt for every 24-month period they spend working full-time in designated regional and remote medical roles.

For a graduate facing a new career with a debt of more than $80,000 the opportunity to work in designated remote or regional areas and have this HECS debt reduced automatically could prove an attractive incentive for graduates.

The Australian health system will always have a large percentage of overseas trained medical staff. It’s the nature of the industry. But we can never pin our future upon a constant supply of foreign trained doctors and nurses.

We need a ‘local’ solution. 

We need to a system that encourages our medical graduates to consider a career in regional Australia.

We have come through the first real COVID test of our health system here in the North. Credit must go to our frontline staff here in the North. Long hours, in some cases frustrated and frightened clients, but they put in the hard work and long hours.

Recognition must also go to the staff in pathology, processing enormous numbers of tests and sending the very welcome SMS notification of a negative result was for many people the highpoint of their week.

Well done Queensland Health, QML and Sullivan Nicolaides, a great collective effort, and now, we as residents need to give you a break, we must mask-up, socially distance and do the right thing. Our health professionals need time to relax with family and recharge their batteries after their massive effort.


Peter McCullagh


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