Census of surgical workforce reveals looming challenge to health systems

The latest census of the Australian and New Zealand surgical workforce by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has revealed a looming challenge to health systems across both countries, with nearly a quarter of surgeons intending to retire from public on-call work within the next five years.

The President of the College, Mr Ian Civil, said that this will put a huge strain on those surgeons left in the system. "While the pressure will be felt more in some specialties than others, governments and the College need to work together to address this problem before it becomes
a crisis" he said.

"The drift towards subspecialisation is another complicating factor. As surgeons narrow their scope of practice, health systems are having to cope with a declining number of generalists within a given specialty."

Despite the increase in surgeon numbers, more than a third of Fellows found the level of on-call work in the public sector to be heavy or extremely heavy. In particular, 57.8 per cent of Paediatric, 47.0 per cent of Cardiothoracic and 45.0 per cent of Vascular Surgeons found the level of on-call public sector work heavy or extremely heavy. Mr Civil called for greater investment in hospital based training posts.

The College's census of the surgical workforce addresses key issues of current and future work practices, in both the public and private sectors. Providing a comprehensive picture of the surgical workforce, the census offers findings across the nine surgical specialties and across the Australian states and New Zealand.

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