Funds to Fill Voids

There remains a large focus on attracting people to the healthcare profession – and more so, the region – for the Far West Local Health District (FWLHD).

Though proving difficult at times, through a range of initiatives, it is hoped staff vacancies can be filled.

Recording a $2.8 million surplus across the 2022/23 financial year, FWLHD Chief Executive Brad Astill admits while the district are “very good financial managers”, much of the sum relates to staffing levels.

“Much of that [surplus] is really on the back of us having vacancies, which we can’t fill. So, we’ve got salaries and wages funds there, which we haven’t expended and that really accounts for our position each year,” he said.

“We obviously track our staffing really closely and we’ve got a range of initiatives in place to attract staff to the District.”

Capital funding towards a Key Worker Accommodation program will address a lack of living arrangements for health workers, envisioning 14 single-bed units to be built in Broken Hill and two new twin studios to be constructed in Balranald.

With an aim to deliver modern, adaptable, and environmentally conscious accommodation, it’s hoped this will meet the challenge of providing affordable and accessible living arrangements for new and visiting health workers, vacancies first need to be filled still.

“We have regular vacancies across pretty much all our roles in the organisation. A particular focus for us is on nursing care. We can always have more nurses,” he said.

“We’ve got a whole range of strategies that we’re putting in place to try and attract nurses to come and work for us. We’ve been very fortunate to have staff from other Local Health Districts come and spend time working with us.”

Developing a strong working relationship with the Sydney Local Health District around attracting nurses from overseas as part of a program has helped bring nurses to the Far West and is just one of the ways the FWLHD is hoping to fill positions.

A Health Management Internship Program has also been set up in partnership with the Australasian College of Health Service Management (ACHSM). Offering the FWLHD to enhance the professional growth of its personnel, the program concentrates on upskilling current staff over a two-year period with a succession plan for future managerial positions.

“The internship program is a really important program for us because we believe that’s a way of us developing and giving opportunities for our next generation of health managers. We focus on our own internal staff who apply to be an intern,” Mr Astill said.

“We’ve just finished interviews for next year, and we’re going to have two interns next year, and they get opportunities to have rotations through all of the parts of our organisation as an opportunity to learn about what it is to be a manager in a health service.”

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