Regional nursing and midwifery services are facing a “major crisis”, according to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation SA CEO Elizabeth Dabars.

Key points:

  • The union wants additional financial incentives to attract and retain staff in regional areas
  • It estimates South Australia alone could be short by 15,000 nurses and midwives by 2025
  • It is in talks with the state government pushing for solutions to the shortfall

The federation is currently pushing for an increase in allowances to attract and retain nurses in regional areas.

Professor Dabars said while there are financial incentives to working in regional communities, she did not think they were working.

Professor Dabars says fewer medical services will be available if more nurses and midwives can’t be attracted to country areas.(ABC Riverland: Anita Ward)

“This is a … really sad consequence of a lack of workforce planning.”

The federation estimated that by the year 2025 South Australia alone would be short by 10,000-15,000 nurses and midwives.

Professor Dabars said many regional nurses were reaching retirement age, which she said underlined the need to get new nurses into country areas. 

“We know that the nursing and midwifery population is a mature population, which is great for the level of skills that they have, but that also means in the next five to 10 years there will be an extraordinary amount of retirements,” she said.

“Our predominant concern is that the people who suffer the most will be the community who will see their services wind down and be removed.”

SA Health has been contacted for comment. 

Professor Dabars says many regional nurses and midwives are nearing retirement age.(ABC News: Nic MacBean)

Professor Dabars pointed to cases such as the closure of the Annie Lockwood residential aged care facility and the suspension of midwifery services in Mount Gambier as examples of the need for regional nurses. 

“The reality is that services have been affected already,” she said. 

“In one of the largest regional hospitals, Mount Gambier, we had an entire ward closed because the COVID patients who were there couldn’t be staffed adequately.”

Posted , updated