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Health Workforce Advisory Committee sets goals

Health Workforce Advisory Committee identifies goals

Health Minister Annette King says the Health Workforce Advisory Committee's second report is a positive step toward addressing recruitment, retention and workforce development in New Zealand's health sector.

Ms King released HWAC's Framing Future Directions Discussion Document at Parliament today, and welcomed the committee’s proposal to hold a series of public meetings over the next few months, followed by a national health sector summit in Parliament next March.

Ms King said the discussion document outlined proposed national goals and strategies for developing a responsive health workforce, and she encouraged health practitioners to have their say on these proposals.

“This report follows the decade of the 1990s when health workforce planning was so badly neglected. Someone had to lay the strategic basis for creating a unique New Zealand health workforce. That is what HWAC has done. Now it is important to collaborate with practitioners and others interested in the health and disability workforce to discuss HWAC’s proposals.”

The second document follows HWAC’s workforce stocktake, released in April this year, identifying workforce capacity and key workforce issues, including recruitment and retention. Framing Future Directions addresses these strategic issues and identifies six priority areas for workforce development:

Addressing the workforce implications of the Primary Health Care Strategy. Promoting a healthy hospital workplace environment. Educating a responsive health workforce. Building the capacity of the Maori health workforce. Building the capacity of the Pacific health workforce. Ensuring the health and disability workforce is responsive to the needs of disabled people.

Ms King said the document underlines the fact that workforce development is a complex social process. "It's difficult to find quick and easy answers to retention and recruitment problems. HWAC aims to prevent future reliance on crisis management."

Most objectives in the document were long term, but three were already being actioned, she said. “DHBs and the Ministry of Health are working more closely with tertiary education providers to ensure health training is aligned with strategies like the Primary Health Care Strategy.

“DHBs are setting-up databases, which record employee information, such as age, ethnicity, turnover, so they can develop strategies to help address their own workforce issues. And DHBs are giving greater priority to planning their workforce at a local and regional level.”

Ms King said HWAC was faced with a wide range of expectations from the sector on ways it could address health workforce issues.

"Rather than look at specific issues or workforce groups in isolation, the committee has looked at the health system as a whole, the tasks it must tackle, and the directions in which health care is moving. This document outlines ways to develop and support an effective health workforce."

HWAC will hold public consultation meetings in main centres between November and Christmas, and will receive submissions until the end of January 2003. All comments will be analysed and discussed at the summit meeting in March.

“That summit will help flesh out many of the proposals in this document.”

The discussion document is available on the HWAC website: www.hwac.govt.nz.

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