2023 staff crisis for Australia's EDs

Thursday, 12 January, 2023

2023 staff crisis for Australia's EDs

Emergency departments across the country will suffer staff shortages throughout 2023 as large numbers of medical positions remain unfilled, according to a survey conducted by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM).

The informal survey revealed average national shortfalls of 28% for specialist trainee roles, 30% for junior medical officers and 10% for senior decision-maker roles.

ACEM President Dr Clare Skinner said, “Emergency department staff desperately want to provide high quality care to people with acute health needs. But in many EDs, there are simply too many ill or injured people needing help, and not enough staff to provide the timely treatment they require.”

She added that the most common reason emergency physicians across Australia get in touch is to express challenges with recruiting and their worries about safely meeting patient needs with insufficient staff.

The College warns that ED staffing shortages are self-perpetuating: skilled staff leave because of unsustainable working conditions, then working conditions get worse because of further staff shortages — so more skilled staff leave, or reduce their working hours.

ACEM urges investment in measures to support and retain the current healthcare workforce, and to ensure future safe staffing levels, so that all patients can get the acute care they need, when and where they need it.

Skinner said, “Healthcare workers are the most vital part of the health system. We need to make emergency departments desirable and safe places to work, where all staff are supported to provide the best possible care to patients and can experience rewarding and sustainable careers.

“Australia’s emergency clinicians stand ready to work with colleagues across the system, and all stakeholders and decision-makers, on the collaborative reimagination and reform of the healthcare system.”

ACEM recently warned that relying on the empathy of healthcare staff isn’t a sustainable strategy to keep the healthcare system going. ACEM has also called for investment in the areas of federal responsibility that contribute to dangerous pressures in EDs, including Medicare, the NDIS and aged care.

The UK’s Royal College of Emergency Medicine publicly urged Australia to learn from the UK’s current “avoidable” healthcare system collapse, with “staff morale, moral injury and moral distress” contributing to the crisis.

Image credit: iStock.com/wildpixel

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