Increased investment in the state’s public health workforce as well as supporting infrastructure and training is required, a parliamentary committee has heard.
Public Health Association of Australia state president Kim Jose told the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday the coronavirus pandemic had highlighted the small size of the state’s Public Health workforce and the need for surge capacity to respond to infectious disease outbreaks.
“In Tasmania, the local response did require short-term secondment and employment of people from outside the core Public Healh team,” she said.
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Dr Jose said the pandemic had identified skills gaps in the Public Health workforce, such as the limited number of nurses with training in response efforts and contact tracing methods as well as the limited number of trained field epidemiologists.
She said many Public Health roles in Tasmania were dependent on a single person, which made infectious disease incidents on a large or complex scale difficult to respond to.
“Due to a range of factors, such incidents as we’re currently experiencing are predicted to increase in frequency in coming years,” Dr Jose said.
Public Health Association of Australia chief executive Terry Slevin said less than 2 per cent of health resources in Australia were spent on public and preventative health.
He said public health capacity nationwide needed improvement.
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