More doctors and nurses, but supply varies across regional and rural areas

The number of employed medical practitioners and nurses in Australia increased by 18% and 12% respectively between 2004 and 2008, according to two reports released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

However, regional areas continued to have lower rates of medical practitioners per head of population-most significantly, outer regional areas, where there were 187 full-time equivalent (FTE) medical practitioners per 100,000 people, compared to 376 FTE medical practitioners per 100,000 people in major cities.

David Braddock of the AIHW's Labour Force Unit said the report, Medical labour force 2008, shows there were 68,689 medical practitioners employed in medicine in Australia in 2008.

'The majority of employed medical practitioners worked as clinicians, and of these, about 38% were primary care practitioners, 35% were specialists, 14% were specialists-in-training and 12% were hospital non-specialists,' he said.

The average weekly hours worked by medical practitioners decreased from 44 hours in 2004 to 42.7 hours in 2008, while in remote and very remote areas, medical practitioners worked, on average, an extra 3 hours per week.

Women continued to increase their share of the medical practitioner workforce, making up 35.0% of employed practitioners in 2008, up from 32.4% in 2004.

The report, Nursing and midwifery labour force 2008, shows that nursing continues to be a female dominated profession, with women making up 90.6% of nurses in 2008.

'The number of male nurses increased only slightly, from 8.7% in 2004 to 9.4% in 2008,' Mr Braddock said.

Nursing supply also varied across regions, however in contrast to the ratio of medical practitioners, there were more nurses in remote areas compared to major cities.

'Very remote areas had the highest supply of nurses, with 1,275 FTE nurses per 100,000 people, while major cities had the lowest supply, with 1,035 FTE per 100,000 people,' Mr Braddock said.

Nurses in very remote and remote areas worked, on average, more hours than the national average (5.1 and 1.3 hours respectively).

Unlike for medical practitioners, the average weekly hours worked by nurses, rose over the 2004-2008 period, with nurses working 33.4 hours in 2008 compared to 32.8 hours in 2004.

Between 2004 and 2008, the proportion of nurses aged 50 years and over increased from 29% to 35%, with the average age of nurses also increasing from 43.3 years to 44.1 years.


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