Universities Australia (UA) is the peak national body representing Australia’s 39 comprehensive universities. Our universities educate and train virtually all of Australia’s new-entry domestic health professional workforce1, ensuring Australia has the pipeline of health workers it needs to remain healthy and well. Without universities, there would be a significant shortfall – greater than there already is – of these vital professionals. They also provide ongoing education, upskilling and reskilling opportunities for existing health professionals – both domestic and international – as well as undertaking health research. We have a strong interest in health professions education, workforce policy and related regulation. UA is assisted in this work through regular consultation with our Health Professions Education Standing Group (HPESG). HPESG comprises senior university leaders across all health disciplines and jurisdictions.
BACKGROUND AND RESPONSE
The interim report is about ways Australia can enhance the entry and employment of already qualified overseas trained practitioners (OTPs) to help fill identified health workforce gaps. The focus of the recommendations and report are about how to safely accelerate, streamline and provide greater flexibility in OTP migration and registration processes.
While universities play a role in the ongoing education of already qualified health professionals2, their direct involvement in the regulations and processes relevant to employment of OTPs is limited. However, dynamics of the overall health workforce – its composition, size and distribution – does have direct relevance to universities and how they can best support its growth and development. Our submission focuses on this perspective and highlights the potential impacts of importing OTPs on universities’ roles in developing a sustainable, domestically trained health workforce.
- That the importance of developing a “grow-our-own” health workforce plan is further underlined in the report with a goal of reducing our reliance on Overseas Trained Health Professionals (OTPs) while recognising their contribution to Australia’s workforce.
- That the report recognises the importance of including the tertiary education voice from the outset in all health workforce planning to ensure that:
– a comprehensive career lifespan view is provided, including pathways to grow the academic health professional workforce; and
– inadvertent outcomes of importing health workforce do not derail or delay investing in the growth, sustainability and distribution of our domestically
- That health workforce planning, including work around OTPs, includes multi-stakeholder forums tasked with determining a plan to ensure sufficient clinical supervision and placement capacity to support OTPs and growth of domestically trained workforce.
- Accelerate pathways to permanent residency for Australian trained international health graduates who take up and remain in health service positions in regional Australia and areas of primary care shortages.
- Consider further increasing the post-study work rights of all international health professional graduates – subject to monitoring and evaluation of the impact of the current increases on health workforce expansion.
- Enable international health students to be eligible to participate in the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) program.
- Consistent minimum English language requirements between OTPs and Australian trained graduates, at least within the same discipline, is considered as an important principle.