The head of Western Australia’s health department has told an industry breakfast that workforce is the single greatest challenge facing the sector.

Dr Peter Flett told the state’s health executives that they had about two years to plan before the effects of the workforce shortage would begin to be felt.

Between 2012 and 2032, there will be 150,000 reaching retirement age every 12 months but only 50,000 new workers will enter the workforce each year.

The CEO of Aged and Community Services Western Australia (ACSWA), Stephen Kobelke welcomed Dr Fletts’ comments.

He said that even though the economic downturn had gone some way towards easing the pressure on staffing, workforce shortages would be an inevitable part of the future for aged care.

“It paints a bit of a dilemma because the first thing some people would say is that we need to go overseas and recruit staff from over there,” Mr Kobelke said.

“But the challenge is that in the fields of nursing and allied health, there is a shortage of employees all around the world so that is not really a solution.

“The key message here is that we are going to have to start thinking about how we get enough people to work for us when there is a shortage of workers.”

Mr Kobelke also welcomed Dr Fletts’ call for streamlined processes and a reduction in red tape.

“You have got to free people up because if they aren’t able to make decisions, the whole system will slow down and grind to halt.”

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