The Victorian government plans to recruit 1000 frontline healthcare workers from overseas. They will all be returning Australian workers.

9 News reports reports “In order to be eligible, healthcare workers need to have an existing employment contract with a Victorian healthcare service, an active professional registration in place, and be ready to travel. The group will largely be made up of returning Australians who want to come back to the healthcare workforce, bolstered by a large number of international recruits.

That means the Victorian government is not doing anything underhand like poaching critical workers from other hospital systems simply encouraging otherwise unemployed Australian frontline health workers to come back to Australia and work in Victoria (rather than anywhere else).

The government will also be paying to help them relocate back to Australia.

The difficulty with this kind of recruitment drive is that it allocates resources to one part of the system at the expense of another. In this case, it may be other parts of Australia where workers came from or it may be the parts of Europe where they may be working on the frontline during the Covid pandemic. Whichever way you look at it, resources will be taken away from some part of the system that needs them and reallocated to another another part of the system that also needs them.

It’s a zero-sum game. Eventually, someone is going to start poaching Victoria’s frontline health workers.

Both systems are trying to establish a balance but create an escalating problem.

Staff start shopping around for the best deal. The total pool staff does not increase but the costs of attracting them backwards and forwards does. Staff numbers simply oscillate, they don’t increase for very long.

Staff numbers rise and fall as people move around
The costs of participating in this zero-sum game escalates.

It is a short-term strategy that does not work.

The longer term strategy is to train and retain more staff but this takes years of resource and educational planning. Once a pandemic is upon us everything is crisis planning.

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