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Greens celebrate government moving temporary medical staff recruitment in-house

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Amanda Cohn
NSW Greens MP
13 June 2024

After more than a year of campaigning by the Greens, the NSW government has announced it will set up an internal medical locum agency to manage the recruitment of locum medical staff.

For years, NSW Health has relied on private recruitment agencies to manage locum and temporary staff. Private recruitment agencies collect an average commission of 15% of the fee per placement, although this can sometimes be upwards of 20%. These commissions cost taxpayers almost $40 million in 2022-23, nearly double of that of two years before. That number does not account for the massive amount of inefficient spending on travel and accommodation when managed by the 59 different private agencies.

Temporary and locum workers are necessary to support, relieve or stabilise a health service. This is particularly true in circumstances following a disaster or emergency when local nurses, doctors and paramedics are overwhelmed or displaced.

The NSW government has announced $6.3 million in the upcoming state budget to “examine the feasibility of a NSW Health Locum Agency, including how it would work and how much money could be saved as a result.”

In June 2023, Dr Amanda Cohn moved a motion in the Legislative Council that highlighted the inefficient use of private recruitment agencies and called on the state government to assess conducting the work in house. The motion passed unanimously.

An important part of this reform will be removing the burdensome and unnecessary hours of unpaid training a health worker must undertake to recertify themselves to work in a hospital in a different local health district. Often, this recertification can be for something as simple as hand-washing procedure. A government in-house recruitment agency can drive system-wide standardised procedures to mobilise workers faster and improve consistency for better patient health outcomes.

 

Quotes attributable to Dr Amanda Cohn, Greens NSW spokesperson for Health including Mental Health and former GP.

“I’ve worked as a locum doctor myself, in Broken Hill, Casino, Cowra, Leeton and West Wyalong, and I’ve had private recruiters discourage me from accepting placements before the hospital was offering crisis rates. That is unacceptable.

“This inefficient allocation of resources is not only financially wasteful but also contributes to the difficulties in retaining permanent staff, worsens postcode disadvantage and compromises patient outcomes.

“The Greens have taken to several meetings with senior Ministers, multiple Budget Estimates hearings, and even the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald to call for this long overdue reform.

“This will redirect taxpayer funds out of the hands of private recruiters, towards a more efficient process of managing temporary health staff who are needed across NSW. It will also allow for much more efficient mobilisation of healthcare workers in urgent situations when they’re needed most.

“The Greens are committed to holding the government to account on this plan, considering it is so far only a commitment to assess the feasibility of an in-house agency. I urge the government to consult with health workers extensively to get this reform right. 

“Locum and temporary medical staff will always be needed but reliance on them must be avoided at all costs. The state government needs to stay focused on attracting and retaining permanent staff, particularly in regional areas and border towns currently facing an exodus of workers to other jurisdictions with better pay and conditions.

“NSW is currently bleeding healthcare workers and temporary staff, while important, will not patch the wound. A meaningful improvement to pay and conditions is a big step in the right direction,” Dr Cohn said.



Media contact: Josh Appleton - [email protected] - 02 9230 2566

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Amanda Cohn
NSW Greens MP
13 June 2024
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