Top 5 organisational issues impacting the healthcare sector in Australia
Australia’s healthcare sector is the largest employer of people in the country. According to a report by the Australian Government, Department of Employment*, one in four new jobs over the next five years will be in healthcare and social assistance. Roles in the healthcare sector are also incredibly diverse, covering many occupations across a broad range of skill sets, ranging from highly qualified professionals to support staff and volunteers.
Against this backdrop, there’s a multitude of challenges facing the leaders of health sector organisations, both public and private. In addition to political and regulatory challenges, leaders will also need to address the following organisational issues.
An ageing population
The Federal Government has estimated an additional 50,000** qualified aged and disabled carers will be needed in the next five years. Today, one in four people is over 55, and in the next decade this will increase to around one in three. With a growing number of older people in the workforce, a good solution would be to look at ways to take advantage of this more experienced demographic. Healthcare and social assistance is also an industry that’s tailor-made for the unique talents of older people, particularly as carers in aged and disability care.
To keep up with increasing changes in care demands, support workers across the entire health sector will be expected to have a more diverse set of skills. Where some roles were previously designated as unskilled roles, health sector organisations now need support teams to deliver a wider variety of functions. This will require support staff to possess stronger literacy and numeracy skills, as well as greater cultural competency to deal with the broader community. They may also need to develop marketing skills to help promote their organisations and a foundation of health-related knowledge for providing timely advice to clients.
In recent years, doctors and other health professionals have become less willing to work extended hours. This is due to a range of factors including the ageing of the overall workforce, a greater proportion of women in the health workforce and a general trend towards individuals seeking a better balance between work and family life. Health sector organisations are attempting to meet this challenge by providing more options for flexible and part-time working conditions as well as greater incentives for shift workers.
A greater focus on leadership and management
The increasingly competitive funding environment in the health sector means organisations are looking for people with better all-round business acumen. In this environment, management and leadership skills will be more important than ever. People with financial management, marketing and strategic business-planning experience will become increasingly important for health sector organisations. Many of these employers may start looking outside the health sector for these skills, if they haven’t already.
Building a regional workforce
The work, social and educational aspirations of health professionals and their families play a large role in their decisions about where to live and practise. Unfortunately, their criteria may not easily be met outside metropolitan areas. In some cases, this causes a reluctance to move to the areas who may require their services. As a result, health sector organisations will need to work closely with State and Federal governments to ensure that regional areas are an attractive opportunity to health sector professionals, with greater options for accommodation, schooling and lifestyle.
While the health sector faces significant challenges in the future to provide the level of services that all Australians expect, it’s essential that health sector leaders continue to develop the capabilities of their workforce, regardless of their position, location or age. By investing in skills development at every level and location of their organisation, they’ll be putting themselves in the best position to meet these challenges head on.
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