Could a nursing shortage lead to more medical negligence claims in Australia?

Date: Jan 23, 2017

Australia's population is changing in many ways, but the prevailing theme is a country that is getting much older.  For example, the Treasury reported that in the next 40 years, the proportion of Australians aged over 65 could reach 25 per cent, nearly double the rate of 13 per cent recorded in 2002.

An older population puts a greater strain on the country's already stressed medical sector, and some organisations believe that this ageing, combined with current nursing staff trends, could negatively impact Australia's healthcare system. Could this increase the number of medical negligence claims getting put through the courts?

Australia's nursing shortage is on the horizon

Health Workforce Australia (HWA) produced a report looking at Australia's future health requirements, predicted nursing staff levels and the potential discrepancies between the two. The organisation is forecasting that demand for nurses will significantly outstrip supply within the next couple of decades.

If current trends persist, the gap between nurses required and nurses supplied could be as high as 85,000 by the year 2025. The organisation then sees this rising to almost 125,000 nurses by 2030. Importantly, HWA notes that there is no one policy that is able to significantly reduce this possible shortage on its own. Instead, it believes that a combination of policies and models may be able to reduce this shortfall to as low as 39,000 by 2025 or 45,000 by 2030.

The problem isn't just a long-term one either, it's something that could soon have very noticeable effects on medical practices across Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on a Monash Business School study that found as many as a quarter of current nurses were considering leaving the profession, a statistic brought on both by rising assaults from patients and continually stressful workloads.

The researchers said that these sentiments are particularly prevalent in one region throughout the country, and could be tracked down to a range of specific areas of the profession.

"Such negative perceptions were most prevalent in New South Wales and in the areas of mental health, critical care and emergency, maternity care and aged care," the report said.

If your health has been harmed due to the actions of a doctor, nurse or other medical professional, it's essential to seek assistance from specialist lawyers. Get in touch with the team at Gerard Malouf and Partners to find out more.

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