Health care has become the most important sector of the Australian economy, and the biggest employer of young people.
The future of that sector is at stake, as demand for doctors grows.
The health care workforce in Australia has been declining over the past 10 years, with the unemployment rate at 8.7 per cent and graduates with degrees at a record low.
While there are some who think the problem is the changing face of the workforce, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that the problems facing the profession are related to a changing workplace, the changing nature of health care delivery and the changing demographics of the population.
“There’s been a big decline in the number of doctors,” Dr James Glynn, a health care economist at the University of Sydney, told ABC Radio.
“In terms of the numbers, we’re down to about 1.5 per cent of the profession now.”
Dr Glynn is one of a number of academics, including the former head of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, who have raised concerns about the future of the health care industry.
“What you’ve got now is a workforce that’s quite thin, quite young, very focused on getting on with their careers and not necessarily having a lot of time to be engaged in a wider range of work,” Dr Glynn said.
“So the fact that people don’t feel as engaged, the lack of time and the lack, I think, of quality of life that’s been associated with being on a full-time job is going to be an issue for the health system going forward.”
There are also growing concerns that a large part of the medical profession is being forced out of the workplace, particularly at a time when the country’s hospitals are under pressure from falling revenue.
Dr James Glynne says the profession needs to re-examine its approach to recruitment.
“We need to look at recruitment and we need to have a better understanding of what’s happening to our health care sector, and if there’s a change in the way we recruit, we need a change to our recruitment practices,” he said.
‘Doctors’ are facing a challenge’ The challenge is also a matter of perception.
In a survey conducted by the Australian Medical Association last year, over half of doctors surveyed said they felt the profession was too focused on business and financial success, and only 35 per cent said it was a profession that cared about the wellbeing of the patients they cared for.
In a survey last year by the Queensland Medical Association, over a quarter of doctors questioned also expressed the view that their primary role was to deliver care for patients.
There’s also a perception among many that the current healthcare system is not providing the quality of care that is needed.
The Australian Medical Council says a lack of funding, increased costs, and a lack in patient safety are some of the reasons that doctors are reluctant to work in the profession.
“Doctors need to take a look at their profession and ask themselves what is the value they provide to patients, and whether the system is delivering the kind of care they think is important,” Dr Adam Ritchie, the president of the AMA, told the ABC.
But while there are signs of change, the current medical system has not been without its problems. “
Doctors have to take into account all of the variables that go into that and make sure they’re doing the best they can.”
But while there are signs of change, the current medical system has not been without its problems.
One of the biggest challenges is the fact there are so few doctors in Australia.
Over half of all new doctors are graduates, and many are leaving the profession in droves.
More than a third of doctors were aged 65 or over in the last financial year, and this was the highest proportion of any age group in Australia, according to a recent survey by the Commonwealth Bank.
Many doctors also lack the qualifications to work as primary care doctors, and are not required to work a full range of shifts, as is required for many other medical professions.
With the rise of digital medicine and other medical technologies, the role of primary care has also been changing, as doctors are increasingly trained in treating patients in their home settings.
It’s also important to note that many doctors work in hospitals.
According to a 2016 report by the National Association of Chief Medical Officers (NACMO), only 11 per cent (0.8 per cent) of doctors in the top 250 health occupations were practicing in hospitals in 2015-16.
The problem isn’t just a matter to doctors, but to other professionals too.
Despite a shortage of doctors, there are still more than 30,000 registered nurse midwives, nurses, midwives and medical technologists in Australia in 2016.
“We need more nurses to practise, and more people to practise,” Dr Ritchie said.
But Dr Glynnes point out that this