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Aging population faces health workforce crisis

30 September 2005

Aging population faces health workforce crisis

The healthcare sector is facing a chronic shortage of skilled workers to cope with future demand from an aging population, an NGO-Ministry of Health forum has heard.

Participants at the Wellington forum were told that non-government organisations would be crucial to filling part of that gap but funding, sustainability and training issues were standing in the way.

“These are problems that the NGO sector has battled for some time. It is imperative that we start working on commitments made by the Ministry of Health to better incorporate the work done by NGOs with other health providers,” says Health and Disability Sector NGO Working Group Chair Dr Gill Greer.

Ministry of Health figures show that by 2051 close to 25 percent of the population will be aged over 65.

“Health problems and disability will disproportionately affect this sector of the population while the risk of labour shortages in the healthcare sector is simultaneously increasing,” says Dr Greer.

“It is imperative that we develop a sustainable health workforce now to combat those issues. That means enticing older people back to work with tailored training programmes, improving wages and creating room for career development within NGOs,” Dr Greer says.

The forum highlighted the need for DHBs and PHOs to spell these out to work more closely with NGOs to strengthen the sector’s workforce.

“The Health and Disability Sector NGO Working Group will concentrate on encouraging collaboration across the health sector to address these workforce issues during the next few months.

“Without a sector-wide focus on improving funding, sustainability and training there will be a crucial lack of healthcare workers to cope with an aging population,” says Dr Greer.


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