Here we go, is this a case of

-plausible deniability?

Are we thinking straight

-providing more elder residency visas
with a health system already under stress?

Is it a case of chasing votes?

Health jobs ‘impossible to fill’ as hospitals deal with higher demand, union claims

 16 MAY 2019

Restrictions are being placed on the hiring of new hospital staff in Tasmania’s stretched health system, a union claims.

Key points:

  • Unions are worried there is a vacancy control process at a time of higher demand on hospitals
  • Emergency doctors and nurses share their concerns, but the Government denies there is a jobs freeze
  • New staffing levels are based on mid-last-year’s figures, the union spokesperson says

The Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) says an email it has, clarifying arrangements across the Tasmanian Health Service (THS), is evidence there are constraints being placed on recruitment.

The union is worried that the restrictions are happening when demand has increased, a factor acknowledged by the Government.

In April, the union sent an email to the THS with concerns about the management of the full-time equivalent (FTE) staff numbers across the public health system.

The union said pathology and pharmacy staff had raised concerns about recruitment processes stalling, and it was seeking more information after senior health staff reported hold-ups in advertising positions and approving new employees.

In response, HACSU received an email from the THS clarifying the measures taken after the health system received $105 million in top-up funding from the State Government in November.

The email stated that the revised budget allocation was based on the average full-time positions for the first half of the 2018-19 financial year, where possible, and that most areas of the THS were capped at their full position FTE.

That means departments had been given fixed staffing numbers that they are unable to exceed, except where there had been funding for new positions after the date of the new FTE figure being determined.

“An exception to this has been where full funding had been allocated for a new budget initiative and recruitment had not been finalised,” the email stated.

The response from the THS also stated that all areas of the THS could ask for a review of their budget allocation, with discussions regarding initial feedback “in the coming months”.

HACSU’s Tim Jacobson said the letter indicated there was a vacancy control process across the health service.

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“It means it is more difficult and, in some cases, impossible to get positions filled,” he said.

Mr Jacobson said the THS shouldn’t be capping FTE staffing levels based on old data.

“The new staffing levels that have been established are based on mid-last-year’s figures, when we know the demand over the last six to eight months has increased significantly in this time,” he said.

Emergency doctors, nurses fear job freeze


HACSU’s concerns follow those raised by the head of emergency medicine for the THS North-West, Marielle Ruigrok, who in leaked emails to THS executive asked for the service to reverse what she described as a hiring freeze.

Dr Ruigrok said emergency departments in the north-west were unable to recruit nurses due to a hiring freeze, and instead agency staff were being used to plug a gap.

In a statement, the national president of the Australian College for Emergency Medicine, Dr Simon Judkins, backed Dr Ruigrok and said he would monitor the situation.

“We support Dr Marielle Ruigrok, who is a fellow of the college, and her call for improved patient outcomes at Mersey Community Hospital,” he said.

The ABC has also spoken to senior clinicians at the Launceston General Hospital and the Royal Hobart Hospital who said it was increasingly difficult to get approval for positions to be filled.

The nursing union has also written to the head of the THS, saying its members were told the health service was looking at a freeze on full-time positions to ensure it came in on budget.

“There are THS nursing positions they are unable to fill, because of what’s been known as a hiring freeze,” said Emily Shepherd, ANMF Tasmanian Brach Secretary.

“Every business case, and job case, has to go to a job review committee, and my understanding is that committee has not even been meeting.”

In March, the Health Minister said he expected the THS to come in on budget because it had been given extra funding.

In a statement, a THS spokesman said “there was no hiring freeze.”

There are 74 FTE jobs listed as vacant in the THS.