The first 2,000 health worker study subsidies will be awarded in April to students across New South Wales as part of efforts to address health workforce challenges, Health Minister Ryan Park has announced.

Minister Park was speaking at the NSW State Health Outlook in Sydney on 3 April, hosted by CEDA, sponsored by Nous Group and facilitated by Monique Jackson, a senior health Principal at Nous.

The minister announced study subsidies for nursing, allied health, medical and paramedic students. He said the first 2,000 health worker study subsidies will be awarded in early April to new and graduating health students across NSW.

This is the latest government initiative focusing on workforce, following the removal of the wages cap and an increase in recruitment incentives. The government has allocated $2.5 billion in its budget to recruit and retain healthcare workers.

“The 178,000 NSW health employees are the true deliverers of healthcare,” the minister said. “Without them, our multi-million-dollar health precincts are irrelevant. Our cutting-edge health technology does not deliver care on its own.”

He added: “I am incredibly optimistic. Optimistic because I know if we focus on our workforce, we will improve the delivery of healthcare to our communities.”

Speaking after the event, Monique Jackson said she enjoyed the wide-ranging conversation with Minister Park reflecting on the biggest challenges facing the NSW health system and how the government is addressing these.

“We discussed workforce, Closing the Gap, pressure on emergency departments and the government’s commitment to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the health system,” she said.

“I’m particularly excited about the opportunity to leverage the review of the National Health Reform Agreement and the NSW special commission of inquiry to start to redirect investment to prevention, early intervention and integrated models of care.

“We know the greatest return will come from investment in prevention and a greater focus on the social determinants of health."

Commenting on the discussion, Nous Principal and health specialist Heidi Wilcoxon said that few would disagree that workforce was among the most pressing and complex challenges facing the Australian health system.

“NSW Health has been tackling workforce complexities for years, within a system under great strain and pressure, exacerbated by the pandemic,” she said.

“It has focused on different parts of the workforce ecosystem. Examples include an expanded and permanent workforce of nurses and paramedics; better ways to coordinate use of locums; regional, rural and remote strategies; and concentrating on caregiver experiences through their action guide to elevate the human experience.”

She said that Nous’ national work in health and ageing showed that workforce solutions will be effective if accompanied by more systemic reforms.

“Workforce challenges are critical priorities and efforts to support the healthcare workforce must continue,” Heidi said. “However, without broader system reform, the workforce being bolstered today will continue to be at risk of burnout and high turnover, and may not be retained in the public service at the capacity needed to provide quality healthcare for the community.”

Monique added: “It is important for the government to balance different budget demands and consider how we make the transition away from big infrastructure spending and towards primary and community care. We have a significant underinvestment in prevention to address the underlying causes of ill health yet we have very clear evidence that this will reduce the health burden in the long run.

“Enacting these reforms takes courage and commitment from government, but the long-term sustainability of our health system depends on it.”

The event was attended by more than 150 health leaders, policymakers and health professionals, including executives from St Vincent’s Health Australia, Catholic Health Australia, Westpac, Medibank and The George Institute for Global Health.

Nous Group was pleased to be a major sponsor.

NSW State Health Outlook lunch