Medicare Locals struggle to engage nurses
PRIMARY care nurses are going to have little influence on how Medicare Locals (MLs) operate because very few are putting their hands up to sit on their boards.
Several MLs have contacted APNA after failing to attract any applications from primary care nurses for governance and leadership positions.
APNA CEO Belinda Caldwell said nurses did not see themselves as capable, despite their skills being much sought after.
She called for the Department of Health and Ageing to fund governance training for primary care nurses.
“We know tranche 1 MLs have experienced significant challenges in recruiting nurses. Nurses are very well placed to make a fantastic contribution to MLs but… they need to feel confident to participate at that level,” Ms Caldwell said.
A mid-January election for the Murrumbidgee division saw one application from a nurse who did not work in primary care.
Chair Dr Tony Hobbs said his previous division of general practice, the Riverina division, tried for 18 months to attract a nurse onto its board with no success.
“It’s such a shame because we know nurses working in primary care, particularly in terms of weight of numbers, should be represented at a governance level and they bring such a good skill base to the table,” Dr Hobbs said.
Funding for governance training, in the same manner GPs had received, was necessary, he said.
“The previous relationship between the professions has been GP dominated and there has been very little or no investment in nurses gaining governance training.
“Through divisions, GPs have had funding for the last 15 years either through in-house board training, or through the 10-day training program.
“We need to ensure nurses and other allied health professionals are able to gain the same governance training because we are talking about a functioning primary healthcare organisation and we need to ensure people at governance level are well trained,” he said.
A health department spokeswoman said a national body would be established in 2012 to help MLs achieve their objectives.
“The national body will have responsibility for coordination, capacity building and sharing of best practice across the ML network, which may include governance training of ML board members,” she said.
Participation was expected from all primary healthcare providers who might contribute through boards, advisory groups or local or national lead clinician groups, the spokeswoman added.