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Government must make Australian hospitals employ Australian grads - Nursing

The Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch) called on Health Minister David Davis to urgently direct public hospitals to increase their intake of recently graduated nurses from Australian universities after it was revealed 805 nursing and midwifery graduates have missed out on a graduate year place next year. Up to 40% of local graduate nurses and midwives are excluded from employment in our hospitals.Shamefully, hospitals are importing foreign nurses and denying locally born and trained nurses an entry year as graduates (often referred to as an intern year).

This terrible situation in Victoria, created by its former Labor Government and perpetuated by the current Liberal Government in Victoria but replicated Australia-wide, means that local nurses pay dearly for three year courses at universities and then find that hospitals have offered these traditional placements to foreign nurses. Yet hospitals and the government are constantly shrieking about a nursing shortage. Furthermore Australia is importing nurses from countries like India and China where they are in desperately short supply. Stealing nurses from poor countries is especially obscene and unfair in the light of Australia having so many of her own new graduates unemployed.

"Although there is a worldwide shortage of nurses manipulating nurse migration is a poor solution to that problem because it causes complex issues within health and social systems in recipient and source countries."[1]

It is also true unfortunately that reentry into the workforce by nurses with experience who have taken a break is unaccountably difficult and expensive, often requiring nurses with young families to spend tens of thousands of dollars repeating their entire nursing degree. An online discussion site called "Nurse Uncut" contains very revealing opinions on these matters.

New state-sanctioned form of slavery in Australia

Nursing degrees themselves are of very varied quality across the spectrum of universities, with students often paying fees to do their own on-line study, with little real assistance. The students are also expected to work for hundreds of hours unpaid in places like nursing homes, as part of their study and training - none of which means they will find paid employment in our system. This way of 'gaining practical experience' seems to amount to a form of state-sanctioned slavery. In contrast, student nurses received payment in the old hospital training systems, albeit low payment, and the hospitals often provided free or very low cost accommodation to any nurse that needed it.[2]

The severity of these counterproductive hiring and retraining practices in Victoria (and elsewhere in Australia) calls into question our educational institutions and our hospitals where it looks as if some kind of synergy is operating in kickbacks for employing foreign nurses on the condition they undertake further study in Australia. These kickbacks must be big enough to make it worthwhile to individual hospitals to risk scandal by knocking back hundreds of local applications, with over 448 rejected in the metropolitan area and, astoundingly, over 200 in country regions.

The ANF in Victoria is able to point to 1142 recent graduates of Victorian universities who could not find a hospital to start work in.

Below we reproduce a press release from the Australian Nursing Federation on the failure of Australian hospitals to employ Australian recent graduates.

ANF tells Dave Davis to tell hospitals to employ local grads

Victoria abandons 805 nursing and midwifery graduates despite authorities predicting shortages

The Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch) is calling on the Health Minister David Davis to urgently direct public hospitals to increase their intake of the class of 2012 after it was revealed 805 nursing and midwifery graduates have missed out on a graduate year place next year.

ANF understands up to 40 per cent of all graduate nurses and midwives have missed out on a graduate year place across the Victorian hospital system despite authorities warning of a looming nurse shortage.

The document used as the basis of the Victorian Government's health services planning, the 10-year Health Priorities Framework 2012-22: Metropolitan Health Plan, claims that between 2011 and 2022 the Victorian system will lose 72,000 nurses, with about 6000 nurses leaving per year and about 4500 graduates starting each year.

The Commonwealth statutory authority established to advise the federal, state and territory health ministers, Health Workforce Australia, predicted that Australia would have a shortage of 110,000 nurses in its Health Workforce 2025 Report released last April. The report says Victoria will have a shortage of 19,615 registered nurses and 7,183 enrolled nurses by 2025.

Despite the predictions Victorian budget papers show no change in the number of public hospital funded graduate places, while in reality Computer Match data indicates each service has reduced the number of positions by about 10 per cent between 2011 and 2012. The evidence suggests the 2013 graduate year positions have been reduced further. Computer Match is the organisation responsible for matching graduates to graduate year positions.

Up to 40% of nurses and midwives excluded from our hospitals

Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch) Acting Secretary Paul Gilbert said: "It defies logic to exclude up to 40 per cent of nurses and midwives successfully graduating from their courses when both the Baillieu Government and Health Workforce Australia are forecasting serious nurse shortages. Health Minister David Davis cannot afford to get this wrong now or we will lose hundreds of potential nurses and midwives.

"Graduates who have dedicated three or more years to their studies and successfully passed their courses should be looking forward to their first day on the ward and excited about starting their nursing careers especially when the authorities keep warning that we will need more nurses," he said.

"Instead hundreds of graduates are calling us devastated that they have no future as a nurse or a midwife before they've even started because they've missed out on a graduate year and are being told by hospitals that they won't get a job if they haven't completed a graduate year place," Mr Gilbert said.

"The Baillieu Government has a responsibility to the people of Victoria to invest in building our future nursing and midwifery workforce, but is instead undermining it by an almost across the board reduction in the number of graduate positions and allowing the introduction of catch-22 employment conditions that exclude nurses and midwives who have not undertaken a graduate year."

Victorian nursing and midwifery graduates who missed out by region

ANF has data indicating 746 Victorian nursing and midwifery graduates have missed out on a graduate year place next year. Another 59 Victorian graduates who studied interstate also missed out. The total number of unmatched candidates, who applied under the Victorian scheme, including some from New Zealand, is 1142. The following is a list of graduates who studied in Victoria and missed out on a graduate year place:

Western Victoria - 155 graduates

Northern and North East Victoria - 59 graduates

South East Victoria - 84 graduates

Metro - 448 graduates
ANF media release Source: 27 October 2012, 9:38am

Editorial Comment

This article, in case it needs explaining, falls under the rubrics of population (immigration, local citizens) and democracy. It also comes under land-use planning in the sense that how you direct population impacts on local empowerment and workforces, as well as on housing demand and prices and wages and conditions, as these are affected by high immigration in the context of very weak Australian worker protection. On 10 November some minor changes were made in response to comments about clarity. - Ed


[1] BEVERLY J. MCELMURRY Mcelmurry, Beverly J. et al, 2006, "Ethical Concerns in Nurse Migration,"

[2] As an added financial injury and insult, in today's hospitals nurses are actually made to pay back a portion of their salary in order to use the hospital parking, with parking fines for failing to keep up with hourly meters where the all day parking spots are filled. Can you imagine, on top of all the other stresses and responsibilities, having to leave the ward where you are working, to go down to the public parking area and feed a meter?


Due to high population growth, largely driven by excessive immigration levels, the western growth area of Melbourne can't give new mothers the support they need. Over crowded hospitals are sending women home just hours after giving birth, despite them wanting to stay longer. New mothers are also being discharged without enough help to care for themselves and their babies, forcing some to reach crisis point, maternal and child health experts say.

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The normal a few years ago was one week in hospital, with time for rest, and a time for mothers and babies to adjust to a feeding and sleep routine, and health checks.

It's unsafe, and a dereliction of duty of care. However, the chronic shortages aren't stopping the Baillieu government from continuing with their agenda of growth, and their spruiking of growth as "good" for the economy. The costs - social, economic, and environmental - as simply swept under the carpet.

While some women could afford to pay for private services, research has found many new mothers were taking unsettled babies to hospital emergency departments because they were desperate. Population growth has continued, but without the funding for health care.

While our system of health care may still be higher than those of developing countries, the pressure on funding and services is cutting into our status and infrastructure that would and should expected as a developed nation.

The decline in living standards, and services, in Victoria, is because of powerful lobby groups, such as industries benefiting financially from growth, which continue to have the upper hand in our government's decision-making - compromising the integrity of our democratically-elected government.

Generalising from the case above where the single woman was sent home nine hours after the birth of her baby, the situation is exacerbated by the fragmentation of families and support networks in Australian urban society. It is unlikely that that this woman has a sister or best friend living next door and her mother may live in another town or city altogether. This is so often the case and all the more reason why government sponsored maternal and child health services are vital. It is pathetic that Victoria's health services are as stretched as they are. Recently in the news- are a litany of problems indicating that services are just not managing demand (i.e. population). e.g ambulances lined up outside hospitals unable to unload patients because the patients cannot be admitted to hospital because of a lack of beds and ambulances are therefore unable to respond to new calls - a potentially fatal problem; dearth of obstetric beds in hospitals in the fast growing western suburbs.. There is no point in offering a "baby bonus" if these services are not available where they are needed . Unless one has a need for a service or works in the service area, one is blissfully unaware of the fact that things are actually out of control It all works OK as long as you do and are therefore not directly depending on the overloaded services.

The problem is worsening and increasingly becoming a national issue with every state and territory now having large numbers of graduate nurses missing out on a graduate placement.

Disappointingly the problem has been exacerbated by inaction and state and federal governments passing the buck for too long. This is the perfect recipe for creating a nursing and midwifery shortage, and must be addressed urgently.

Recently the ANF (Vic Branch) wrote to the Victorian Minister for Health David Davis highlighting the dire situation. The response highlighted the Office of the Minister for Health’s recognition of the situation and held that the Department of Health was taking some steps to begin addressing the situation including producing a booklet of information for new graduates and investigating broadening the health services through which graduate programs are offered in Victoria.

With regard to nurses and midwives being told by health services that they will not be employed without a graduate year the response stated:

“…a graduate program place is not mandatory to be able to practise as a Registered Nurse or Midwife. In relation to your concern about a requirement for a graduate program to be a pre-condition for employment, I can assure you that health services have been informed that a graduate program is not required as a condition of employment.”

If members are aware of any hospital continuing to advise graduates to the contrary please email ANF (Vic Branch) as soon as possible so that we can bring this to the Minister’s attention.

The response from the Health Minister’s office is inadequate and does not indicate that they will work urgently with the Federal Minister for Health on this issue. Instead it indicates continued inaction and buck passing. This will not resolve the situation that currently exists and through which Victoria stands to lose 805 graduate nurses and midwives.

Victoria must have enough graduate programs to support every new graduate’s safe transition to registered nurse or midwife, to help retain nurses and midwives and to invest in addressing the claimed future shortages. Doing so is vital to making sure we have a strong health workforce and all Victorians continue to receive professional health care.

In response to this growing crisis ANF is running a national campaign focused on applying pressure to state and federal politicians to fund a range of strategies that ensure employment of graduate nurses and the ongoing promotion of safe patient care.

Part of this campaign includes sending a strong message to Victorian Health Minister Hon David Davis and the Federal Health Minister Hon Tanya Plibersek, calling on them to stop the buck passing and to work together towards a real solution that ensures every newly graduating nurse or midwife can access a quality graduate year.

Graduates are a precious resource, and it will be to the detriment of us all if state and federal politicians don't act urgently and make sure every Victorian graduate nurse or midwife receives a well-supported, high quality transition into their career as a nurse or midwife.

Please ask our federal and state health ministers to stop passing the buck and start working together to secure jobs for new grads.

From an ANF Press Release signed by Paul Gilbert, Acting Secretary, ANF (Vic Branch):